Jeannette’s most recent post is very fitting for my own life right now. The calm that came after graduation quickly devolved into a kind of chaos that is coming from all directions and exists at the middle of feelings of great happiness and great sadness. Happy or sad, life throws us for a loop sometimes and we end up scrambling to keep our feet planted firmly on the ground and keep our minds level. The bottom line is that when you’re stressed, or things aren’t going your way, or you are upset over something, you need to remember what is truly important and how to prioritize. You also need to put your problems into perspective.
There’s a quote floating around on Pinterest about the problems we all have:
Sometimes, our problems seem insurmountable. And sometimes they are almost more than we can bear. But humans are amazingly resilient and strong — we are capable of great things and can overcome that which seems to be impossible. Difficulties are often not as bad as they originally seem, because once we move away from our singular and narrow perspectives, we often see that our problems are not as bad when compared to those faced by others. Placing our problems in perspective doesn’t solve them, but it makes them easier to deal with.
Hopefully, in reading my blog posts, you’ve learned some things about me. One of the things that I think carries through my musings is that I have a great appreciation for the world around me and everything it can teach me. I take great inspiration from the movies I watch, the music I listen to, the trips I take, the speakers I hear, the photos I view, and most importantly, the books I read.
I’m a book lover, but not what I would call a book snob. I see the value in every book, whether it is a profoundly moving or groundbreaking classic or a fun, easy read. Books convey human emotions and interactions to us, and even if the story itself isn’t the most original or creative, we can still learn things from them. Books are also cathartic and, sometimes, the simple act of reading a story can allow us to center our own thoughts and feelings on an issue going on in our own lives.
I recently read a novel published a few years ago that was just this kind of book. I purchased it last year when Borders was going out of business and thought it would be a simple, quick read. And it was, but at the same time it wasn’t. The events and relationships within gave me great pause, and made me very glad for the life that I have — even if it is sometimes boring, frustrating, or not exactly as I want it to be.
“Roses” by Leila Meachem is billed as a modern “Gone With the Wind, ” tracing the triumphs and tragedies of a wealthy Texas family over the course of the twentieth century. It is a love story, but not just one between two characters. In this case, it is also a love story between families, and between people and their heritage. “Roses,” however, is also a story of hate, jealousy, and stubbornness — and what can happen when those feelings define relationships and family structures.
“Roses” is a frame story, beginning in the present and repeatedly reflecting on past events. The novel revolves around the character of Mary Toliver who, at more than 80 years old is re-evaluating her life and choices. Widowed and with no children, Mary is herself facing the end of her life. With little time left, she wants to correct the mistakes she feels she has made and she sets out to do so, changing her will to reflect her new interpretation of the past. Since childhood, Mary’s life has been completely invested in her family’s 100 year old cotton plantation, Somerset. She has sacrificed over and over for Somerset’s success, which has paid off as Somerset proper is now only one small part of a larger corporation, Toliver Farms.
Without warning, Mary abruptly decides to sell Toliver Farms and Somerset instead of leaving the company and plantation under the care of her niece Rachel, who has been learning the family business since childhood. Before Mary can explain her reasoning, however, something occurs that throws everything into a state of chaos that leaves all who know Mary confused and shocked.
It quickly becomes apparent that the story of Mary Toliver is not solely her own. It is also the story of Mary’s oldest friend Percy Warwick, the story of her late husband Ollie Du Mont, and the story of her brother Miles Toliver (Rachel’s grandfather). It is the story of another will and its consequences, the story of curses and superstitions, the story of how our choices can affect everything.
I really enjoyed “Roses.” But it is not for the faint of heart. It is a roller coaster ride of human emotion that will simultaneously make you want to stay up all night reading and make you want to throw the book across the room. It’s happy in its own way, but it is not a happily ever after kind of happy.
I makes you think about what is really important in life, about how life is different today than it was 75 – 100 years. It also horrified me in terms of how some people treated each other, and made me feel very lucky that my family is not that way.
Have you ever read a book that made you think this way? What are you planning on reading this summer?
Let me know, and, happy reading!