It seems as if nearly everyone is connected to Russia these days. I am too. I was drawn into the warm splendor of the dining room at the Hotel Metropol and fell in love with Count Rostov.
“The way to get rid of a ghost is to take it home.”
This is a ghost story, a story of this world and another, of befores and afters. Before his mother leaves him. After she went to Chicago. After Bishop was raped. Before Samuel’s story revealed Bishop’s secret to Bethany. Before Faye knew Sebastian for a fake. Before the war. After he abandoned Norway. After Bethany becomes the forbidden fruit. After he thought of everyone as an enemy, an obstacle, a trap, or a puzzle. Before he asked the right questions. Before that treacherous pebble ghost was pocketed. Before it became a stone. Before it became a boulder weighing all of them down, dragging them under as they sailed on separate seas further and further away from the shores of family, friendship and love.
To get rid of a ghost, you must take it home. To Bethany. To Norway. To Iowa. To forgiveness, but not forgetting for “every memory is really a scar.” They are with us and they don’t look nice, but they don’t hurt.
It takes some skill to weave a story out of fishing, napalm, Norway, violent protests, Richard Nixon, video game addictions, child abandonment, the midwest, and classical music, but Nathan Hill has woven a spectacular read. This books is terrific. Don’t let its 620 page girth sway you. #ReadThisBook #OneNightstand
“You only have one life, but if you live it well, that’s enough. The only reality is now, today. What are you waiting for to be happy?
It’s unclear to me who needs the Japanese Lover more. Alma? Irina? He’s been dead for three years yet Alma rereads Ichimei’s letters and breathes in the sweet scent of gardenias she’s secretly sent herself, convincing herself that this love is still a living love. Alma’s class consciousness, racism and selfishness blocked her from accepting his love while he was alive. “Age doesn’t make anyone better or wiser, but only accentuates what they have always been.” Even in old age, she finds it difficult to openly reveal her secret youthful love.
The tragically damaged Irina unpacks the history of this lost love and in doing so finds she is able to love again, trust again. Did Alma send those gardenias to herself or were they the trail of breadcrumbs she left for Irina so Irina would not miss her opportunity for happiness? Maybe Alma wasn’t so selfish after all.
Trying to squeeze a story and a message about all of society’s sins – from the Holocaust to Japanese internment to child sex trafficking to repression of gay rights – into a mere 300 pages obscured both the storytelling and the message giving more than needed. Too bad because the story was a good one. #OneNightstand
I thought it best to raise my eyebrows and look puzzled.
It may be impossible to know the truth of anyone’s life, even our own. Maybe there is no whole truth to a life. I see you as through a window, framed perfectly because I am standing where I am standing. When you look out your window to see me, I am looking away. What can you know? What can I know?
Louis Begley’s Memories of a Marriage is elegant. Plus who doesn’t like to have the secret lives of the rich revealed. #OneNightstand