Friday, October 06, 2006

Reading. Lipman.

When I first read Then She Found Me I was in high school, years ago. It was funny and gentle and I loved it immediately. It is at once about how mothers and daughters, and about finding love. About how things happen when you least expect them to, how love may come slowly and unexpectedly, how happiness can bloom so quietly that you hardly notice that it has begun to change you, change your life. How someone who bursts into your life like a force of nature (a newly discovered birth mother, a boss who lives in a fantastical house on the beach) can push you beyond what you feel are your own limits, even if it only a brighter lipstick or a different haircut. Or in the direction of an entirely new life entirely.

There have been other books by Lipman, others which I have loved as well or not quite as well as the first one. There is something endearing about her heroines, women of all ages, growing up through childhood and young womanhood (in The Inn at Lake Devine), verging on the beginning of middle-age (And Then She Found Me), later in middle-age (The Ladies' Man). They nearly all have a sense of being a little bit lost, as though they are all in search of something, sometimes without even knowing that they are in search of it. A sense of themselves. Or love. There are relationships, too, between friends, between mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, how they can be complicated or complicating but are always there. Her voice is clear and bright and witty (and sometimes acerbic) and the words spring lightly, weightlessly off the page and into the heart. The endings never feel like endings; there are no goodbyes, just a pause as though the story continues on beyond the last page. They are like life.

When I am feeling down or alone or in need of solace, I return to Then She Found Me and find myself comforted. I turn to the part where April and Dwight run off to Provincetown, and at dinner she tells him that this was the high point of her romantic life so far, and this is the part that never fails to lift some part of me, make some part of my soul happy, when he says to her, "Six months is not a long time in the great scheme of's a short time to feel the way I feel...I had accepted things about my life and didn't think it would happen, didn't think anyone would bring out the things in me that someone might actually find...compelling. And then this unbelievable thing happened. This dream, actually." And then I look at this story of two people, in their thirties, who had settled into a life that they thought was comfortable and familiar, until it is shaken up a little, and then they find each other, and I wonder if perhaps I might sometime find myself falling into this same kind of dream, someday.

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