The Tale of Genji is REAAALLY long, and its taking me awhile to read it. So while you are waiting, why not take a minute to enjoy this blog from my former blog. (which is no longer in existence). I Love this book and read it in one week in February in 2009. Enjoy!
The novel "A Trip to the Stars" is a startling find, especially given that I found it on the bargain table at Chapters for 2.50. The novel chronicles Mala and Enzo an aunt and her 10 year old nephew who are seperated one fateful day at a planetarium. The remainder of the book follows their seperated paths and their various quests to get back to one another. The book is filled with lost people, who are seeking lost things. It was this description of the lost people looking for lost things that drew me to the book. I was pleased to find such an exciting steal and spent my whole vacation week reading the novel at any spare opportunity I had. It has now moved to the top of my list of favorite novels and I want to read it again because their is so much packed into it. As I usually do in movie and book reviews I will do a numbered description of some of my favorite points.
1) This book is too smart for me! I had to read it with a dictionary sitting beside me because there were a few words that I didn't know. The ones that stick out include natatorium, quincunx, and palimpsest. Do you know what these are?
Heres the definitions:
Natatorium: Swimming pool
Quincunx: a grouping of five objects or people. One in each corner and one in the middle. In the novel this refered to the way the garden was structured
Palimpsest: a piece of parchment or something similar where text has been erased completely or partially to make room for new text. In the novel this refers to a scar that had partially healed and could barely be seen.
The book is filled with references to explorers, philosophers, famous works of literature and a description of several constellations I had never heard of. I felt like I was missing a lot of really important references to things that I should know. For instance, the book makes reference to The Arabian Nights several times and I have a suspicion that parts of the book parallel stories in the Arabian nights. Makes me want to read it now! Several characters, locations and buildings are named after constellations. I caught a few of these because I know some constellations and others I caught becuase I was told by the author.
2) The author loves names. I got the impression that every item and person in the book was named that way for a very specific reason. I had a suspicion that if I had looked up the names in a dictionary or found out their meaning in a foreign language it would have told me something about the nature of that character. For instance Alma (the aunt in the story) changes her name to Mala after she loses her nephew. The author clues us in that this means "bad" in a different language. Mala is racked with guilt over the loss of her young nephew and sorts this out as the book goes on. Several of the characters are named after constellations and two mute characters are named Aleph and Aym which are the two characters in the arabaic alphabet that don't have sounds. I have always loved naming for character and if I ever right a book my characters will have names that hint very subtly at the nature of their character. I love how God changes names in the bible when a person's character goes through a significant switch.
3)There is my favorite kind of puzzle and mystery in this book. It is a story that chronicles the lives of two people and shows how their lives work out for good in the end. The message of the story as I see it is that everything happens for a reason and that people come into our lives just when we need them. Also, the events in the story are bleak and hopeless at times but every instance of things that happen in the story eventually work out for the main characters good. The author is kind enough to let us see how Mala and Enzo are connected even though they are miles apart. It is exciting to know that Mala runs into a hotel owner named Canopus in Thailand, while Enzo stays at his former hotel in Las Vegas. And it is exciting to know that the spider collector who Mala works for in the first year seperated from Enzo is the same spider collector who arrives at the Hotel Canopus and lives with Enzo, years before a connection is ever made. There are more little things like this but the biggest and most suprising of all would be a shame for me to ruin. It fills me with glee just thinking about it and leads to Mala's revelation that everything happens for a reason.
4) This book is set in a childhood dream location of mine. Enzo lives in a hotel with well over a hundred rooms. When I was little this was one of my dreams: to own a house with at least a hundred rooms. As a child I thought it would be great to have a room for every purpose or activity that you might ever want to engage in. The author does a fantastic job of showing us the fine details of many of the hotels rooms. It is a place filled with great mystery and I so wish it was real so that I could explore it at leisure. The other location that the book is set in is the desert. The desert has a very deep meaning for me after God did some major healing work around the desert. I love the desert and the wide open spaces. Much of Enzo's life is surrounded by the desert both in Las Vegas and in Acoma.
5) This book shows in painful detail what happens when a person tries to run from themselves. I have done this and know the feelings that fill you when you are trying to escape your own brain. Mala is filled with guilt over losing Enzo and she travels far and wide trying to escape herself. She stays on various Islands all over the world and also gets involved in some mind altering substances to numb the feelings she is feeling. I have seen both of these methods played out in people around me and know well that people physically remove themselves to far of places as well as mentally remove themselves when their realities are too painful. For a brief time after university I tried to escape myself but was unsuccessful. Thankful our God is a god of love and I was eventually able to stop running.
6) This book has a beautiful love story attached to it and it makes me want to cry even thinking about it. Mala and Cassiel meet in Vietnam during the war and through a series of events are torn apart. He leaves her with a bracelet made out of shrapnel removed from his body and formed into the shape of stars and isn't seen again for many years. He also leaves her with a sign for a celestial fix which is what navigators use to show they have found the right path. At the end of the book he asks him to marry her and gives her a ring with a diamond in the shape of a star and the symbol for the celestial fix etched in the bottom. I love the intimacy and uniquenss that implies and would love to have piece of jewelery that had that much intimate meaning attached to it. This book is great for showing the importance of having symbols to show where you have been and how you have changed. Enzo carrys items left over his mom when she was younger, Mala has a necklace she found right before she left for vietnam and the shrapnel bracelet and Cassiel keeps a leaf that Mala wrote both of their names on. I am a huge fan of symbols and can't wait to have a wedding ring and all that it symbolizes. In the meantime, especially while reading this book (which left me with a huge sense of longing and looking for something...only I don't know what) I have my ring that I bought myself at Creation Fest that says in Hebrew "your maker is your husband". I am wearing it right now actually, as I am still suffering from some post valentines depression.
7) I love that this book doesn't have a neat and tidy ending. It ends on an unfinished note, much like our lives. For a book that is very much about life, it is a fitting ending one that leaves me feeling satisfied and happy. (I know that many people will likely not feel this way however).
All right I think that is enough. I do sugggest that everyone reads this book as it is just so beautiful. It is the kind of book I would want to write if I ever had the motivation to spend that long plotting one out. Here are some quotes:
""And hte halfway house, I also realized, was an natural outgrowth of my uncles pre-occupation with lost people and lost things" pg 137
"For exampe, the fact that English word desert comes from the Latin desertare, as in "to desert", and means not an empty, but an abandoned place" pg 113
"That when you find what you really want, you know that losing it would be worse than losing your life. That makes me afraid" pg 86
"The worse thing about fear is what it does to you when you try to hide it" pg 86