I never had much of a chance to get to know my grandfathers. One was long gone decades before I was born, the other before I was old enough to make my first Communion.
“How can anyone have so much happiness and unhappiness wrapped up at once?”
I thought we were supposed to pursue happiness here in America. The American Dream should make us happy, shouldn’t it? Isn’t that what the Founders wanted for us? 1776 was a long time ago. I get that. Things change. They morph, and so has the dream. Who needs happiness when we can have power and money? Could Daisy have loved Jay Gatsby before he became rich? Or were riches a prerequisite to pursuing his dream of Daisy? He saw the green light and crossed that bay, never noticing that he was drowning.
Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers beautifully confirms that each of us must find our own path to happiness. She makes a compelling case. Following today’s American Dream can lead us down a very narrow path.
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