My friend Steph and I have a small (really small–it’s just us!) book club, where we search and sample and dig for the best reads to share with one another. I am not one of those, “I bought it so I have to finish it, EVEN IF I HATE IT,” people, because Jeesh, life is way too short for that. I still remember reading As I Lay Dying in college and honestly, I did want to lay and die as I was reading it……(I am going to give it another try, since I am notoriously influenced by my mood and where I am in my little life, so maybe in college, this just wasn’t the right vibe for me and this critically acclaimed, super influential work).
Anyway, Steph told me she was reading Elizabeth Stout’s Lucy by the Sea, so immediately I downloaded a sample on my Kindle and was all in. It’s about the beginning of the pandemic from one woman’s perspective and it brought me right back to those eerie, early days when who the hell knew what was happening, except for things were changing by the moment and I ordered a bunch of toilet paper, paper towel and rice and my family made fun of me, before they used it all and began to realize that I wasn’t as overreactive as they thought.
This book is so aptly written that reading it is bringing up some of the fear and claustrophobia I felt then. Things were uncertain and odd and the news was like watching a loop of the movie Contagion. My kids were home, I was walking miles and miles a day, just to be out of the house, getting up at odd hours to get on the Amazon Prime Whole Foods delivery line. I was afraid to be with people and took enormous comfort in my online yoga class. It was bright spot of every morning that helped me to feel a little normal. I kept trying to understand what was happening, but I couldn’t. I missed my friends. I missed being able to walk down the street and not think someone I saw was a walking virus that might kill me. I forced myself to try and soothsay when it would end. I prayed for a vaccine. I worried for my kid’s and how their lives were being effected. In short, I was a hot mess of anxiety.
You wouldn’t think I’d want to revisit that in a book, but somehow or other, it’s rather comforting. I think part of it is knowing that many people’s reactions were like mine, but also that we got through the worst of it (OR ANYWAY, I FUCKING HOPE WE HAVE) and that feels like some sort of achievement. It wasn’t easy. Many people lost someone close to them (we lost my father-in-law, who’d not been well but still), and this changed the course of their lives permanently. While we were able to fend off the virus for two whole years, I did succumb in late May after a fabulous wedding in Palm Springs, which made me sicker than I’ve ever been and left me with a fatigue that has me taking Adderall which is really helping and I’ll continue taking it until this coma-like exhaustion stops.
Anyway, Elizabeth Stout. What a writer. Next up, the book I should have read first, and who Elizabeth won a Pulitzer for, Oh, William! I am notoriously grateful for good writing, that kind you can just feel. What are you reading? Always interested in the next great read. C’mon, tell me everything on your nightstand.