An English teacher friend of mine recommended that I read "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry" by Gabrielle Zevin. She said it was "closer to fluff than true literature"(whatever that means) but she "loved it nonetheless." (I rarely use words like "nonetheless" and wondered why it was all one big word rather than three little words). I said I would give it a go right after I finished "The Ship of Brides" by Jojo Moyes, which she also recommended. I finished "The Ship of Brides" pretty quickly and enjoyed it. It was rather simple, but I liked the different character's stories, and I loved the ending. It was about Australian war brides being shipped to the UK after WWII. Before I could read the next book she recommended I had to read "A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle, which I had given to Toby for Christmas. You see, he loves the movie "A Good Year" based on another Peter Mayle book. He loves the movie because of its setting in Provence, France. He loves the story of wine and accountants and leaving the hectic corporate world for life as a grape grower. So, I bought him another story of Provence. He loved the book and wanted me to read it too. I did. It was fun. I don't want to live in France. Now Italy...
Now I finished my friend's recommendation "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry." I loved the story, the characters, and the writing. What my friend did not mention was the ending. It made me cry. Dang it. Being a menopausal crazy lady, I'm not sure I needed my emotions messed with in this way. Not only did it make me cry, it made me miss my father. In some ways, it makes me miss my mother.
I miss my father because we liked to discuss things - like books we read or summers we spent or just life we lived. If Dad had been big on movies, we might have discussed them, but he rarely sat through a movie. He did take me to see "The Man Who Would Be King" although he had to get up and walk around. He may have gone outside to smoke a cigarette - who knows what he did while I watched the movie. He loved Rudyard Kipling, but he could not sit still. Anyway, we had lots of discussions - sometimes while he drank coffee and smoked a cigarette and rested in the shade. Dad would take me with him on Saturday mornings to the junk stores in the older parts of WF. He would tell me stories of when he was a young boy and lived in that area - how he rode his bike down this hill, where his friends lived, how he made deliveries here for his uncle who had a business there. We talked lots while we did construction work, and we did lots of building. He was quite proud of my carpentry ability. Once while we worked, he told me that all three of the contestants on Jeopardy had missed a question on the book of poems, "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell." I said, "William Blake." He was surprised that I knew the answer, but he loved it too. His reading poetry to us kids when we were young had paid off. We discussed lots of things, but never politics. We came close once when he had a chance to visit the White House during the Clinton administration. Dad was a yellow dog Democrat, but I was having a hard time talking him into going to see the White House and meeting the President. He finally said, "Well I voted for him, but I don't like him much." End of discussion.
The last four years of Dad's life, the radiation treatments had destroyed what little hearing he had - making conversation difficult if not impossible. Dad could not hear me well, but that did not stop him from talking to me - telling me stories of his life - things he thought were important - meaningful to him. I enjoyed his stories, but I missed being able to respond - conversations were one-sided. I still miss those discussions. "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry" reminded me of that. Maybe the father/daughter relationship in the story was not meant to be sad, but that is how it was for me.