Friday, June 06, 2008

Chris Eldin's Celebrate Reading Pick: A FINE BALANCE by Rohinton Mistry

Today, we welcome Chris Eldin as our Celebrate Reading Month Guest Blogger.

About the Guest Blogger: Chris Eldin writes children's middle-grade novels, hoping to entice smiles and tickle imaginations. Her muses are: The flow of a creative idea, a shady tree, horse nostrils, chocolate mousse, impish grins, knowing glances, ice-cream and checkers, Montana down to Colorado and everything West, songs and guitars, wet sand, warm conversations, family, friends, and a pillow for her heart.

There was nothing anyone could do to keep the kids out of the coffin. In fact, as I sat there in the viewing room, I wondered if my sister’s body were as cold as they all said. So I checked, and it was.

All of the children were under the age of six. Two of them were in the hospital because they were preemie infants and needed to be in that tent. You know, the kind that keeps out germs. The other four were poking around the coffin and dashing around the chairs. Once in a while the second-oldest, the five-year-old, would ask when mommy was going to wake up. But mostly, they kept poking her and wanting to put a blanket on her.

After I checked my sister’s corpse and confirmed what my nieces and nephews were saying, I walked around in a rather mindless way. Two priests came in and chatted about bible stuff. One of them admired my niece Bethany very much. She’s the four-year-old with platinum hair and blue eyes. He followed her around, making sure she was okay. I followed him around, also making sure she was okay.

Then later they beckoned everyone to sit, and turned so their backs were facing us. I had never heard Latin before. So I thought to myself that Jesus Christ would’ve wanted people to understand these words. I really began to wonder what language Jesus spoke in. Was it Hebrew? Then I thought about my Jewish friend in Texas who taught herself Hebrew. I tried to think of all the Hebrew words I knew. I wish my friend would’ve taught me cuss words. But she gave all that up when she became pious.

My stomach must’ve rumbled, because I thought of the crab-cakes I bought for my sister two months ago. They’re still in her freezer. Since I had never known anyone with cancer before, I didn’t know that it makes you lose your appetite. Which is why the doctors had to get those babies out because she wasn’t eating.

The Today Show almost did a segment on them, but once they found out all the details, they declined. They like tragedy with a twist of humor and lots of hope. Cry, cry, cry then smile. That’s their formula. I wish they could see the children now. It took a few years, but the smile is there again. They’re all doing well.

When my sister was diagnosed with melanoma, my mother, typically, did nothing and was not around. It was my sister’s mother-in-law who came over every day and massaged her feet and fed her broth. That woman is a saint. When my sister died, she moved in and started taking care of her grandchildren, all six of them, at the age of seventy.

I am writing a long piece because Moonrat did. Plus I know nothing about Faulkner. So let me transition to the book I chose, A Fine Balance. A Fine Balance follows the lives of four people who at various points go on a downward spiral because when they were placed in a crisis, nobody was there to help them. It’s a dark book. I read it a few years ago, and just started thumbing through it again for this review. It was short-listed for the Booker Prize.

It helped me to value my relationships much more. It confirmed what I already knew deep inside my marrow. If you have nobody in your life to support you in times of crisis, you won’t survive. Everybody needs one person in their life as a safety net. Hopefully it’s one or both of your parents. Or a relative, or a friend. Of course relationships are important for happiness and love and laughter and all those other things that make life worth living. But like I said, this was a dark book, so its focus was on survival.


Charles Gramlich said...

This brought back some of my experiences when my sister had cancer. A hard thing.

I think Chris is right. We all need at least one person.

cindy said...

wow on the flash fiction piece in the beginning, chris. i think you said a lot without saying too much about the actual book at all. great post and thank you for sharing. *hugs*

Chumplet said...

What a poignant observation, Chris. Thank you for sharing.

Conduit said...

Wow. The fitst portion was so well written and vivid, I thought maybe you were quoting the start of the book - it reads like a first chapter, with a wonderful, authoritive voice.

Yet again, I don't know the book in question, but thank you for sharing that experience.

Bernita said...

What conduit said, Chris.
Thank you.

ChrisEldin said...

Charles, at least one person, which this book so ably demonstrated. It's dark, but I would consider it a frank look at how most of the rest of the world lives....
and when I see how fragmented we are becoming in general, I think it's making all of us more vulnerable.
Perhaps Moonie should've posted something more cheery for the weekend. ;-)

AC Gaughen said...

A Fine Balance is one of the most amazing books I've ever read. Excellent review of it!


Colorado Writer said...

We all need an emergency contact in our lives.

GREAT review, Chris!

Ello said...

Chris, that was so hard to read. I feel for you. I truly do. What a difficult situation and you are so much stronger for it. Yes, you are right, we all need someone who cares about us in our lives.

JES said...

Chris, what Conduit said -- I read the first portion of your post certain that if this wasn't excerpted from a real book, because no such book exists, then such a book NEEDS to exist. (Which dovetails nicely with MR's earlier posting about "fictionalizing your life.")

I'm not familiar with the book but will check it out. Thanks for the rec.

Precie said...

Chris--Thank you for sharing.