When I get excited about what I read, the people around me tend to hear passages lifted out of the book I’m in. Their reactions are generally lukewarm, and mainly put on for my benefit, a slight come-down from what I expect: screams of joy and laughter, or perhaps deep and utter contemplation of the subject.
This has led me to believe two things:
- I am a master at reading bits of books, and nobody acknowledges it. There must be some sort of tacit agreement or conspiracy, considering the universality of their responses.
- People are befuddled by hearing things at random and out of context.
In light of this, I’m going to experiment on all of you, with passages of the subtle and deep novel, The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrington. It’s about two people who have to figure out their lives and then figure out if they love one another. It’s not a romance novel and it’s not chick lit, it’s a Book. The difference here is that a single mother rents her in-law apartment to a man who’s just quit the priesthood after twenty years: so the book is about family, seclusion, religion, trust, and all kinds of love. I’m not kidding when I say that it’s deep, but it’s the kind of depth that you can see in everyday life if you look for it, and perhaps easily miss considering the slow pace. You can’t miss it in this book.
But is it there in parts clipped out of the rest of the book? Let’s see.
The characters you will have to know are: Rebecca, the single mother who hates her job; Mary Martha, her six year old daughter; and Mike, the ex-priest.
“In four good puffs, maybe five, she knew, she would stub the butt into the shell and her life would seem very small and sad to her again. It was the evil magic of nicotine that buoyed this little moment of peace. But it was lovely, nevertheless, to sit quietly, fingering the guitar pick that hung from a silver chain around her neck and listening to the untrimmed bushes rustle in the breeze that blew in from the sea.” (19)
“Across the circle, on the shore of the stream, [Mike] stood flanked by Sherilou and Phoebe, looking somber and absorbed. His habitual hunch looked odd out of doors, as if the sky itself might be a little low.” (80)
“Maybe that was what real love was, being willing to charge toward the busy, noisy place that someone else inhabited and find what comfort there you could.” (104)
“He sat down and tugged a sock on. His feet in the morning light were extraordinarily ugly. How could she ever have imagined she could live with feet like that? She’d been desperate, apparently. She’d been so lonely.” (156-157)
“Inevitably, the weightless moments with Mike began to seem unreal. All her furniture said that love was a bubble and a fake.” (159)
Of Beanie Babies: “’You see?’ Mike said. ‘That’s special. I bet Patricia can’t remember all hundred and seventeen names of hers.’ Mary Martha walked in silence for a few steps, then said crossly, ‘Well she can remember more than eight.” (180)
[I leave out any moments in the latter part of the story. Because.]
“There was nothing ahead of her but the cathedral, its upper reaches drenched in sunset gold, and the plum trees in the evening hush, waiting for spring. There was nothing ahead of her but all the steps to be taken.” (274)
What do you think? Did you get anything out of it? Either way, it’s a great book – with very shiny legs on the cover.