When I returned from my Iowa trip a few weeks ago I took a cab home from O'Hare. I started the trip playing Word Mole on the BlackBerry (I am addicted) and when I missed my high score by one point gave it up and started talking to the cab driver. He was a very nice younger guy who had moved to Chicago about two years ago from the Ukraine. He had some interesting observations about the United States and was a good conversationalist. He talked a little bit about his mother who had moved to the United States, then back to the Ukraine, and then back to Chicago. He lives at home with her and was proud to say he is a "momma's boy" (his term).
Where am I going with this? Well, I don't know how we got on the subject but we started talking about reading. He told me that he does not enjoy reading because he is too sensitive. Books make him too sad. I have been thinking a lot about that comment since the cab ride and it really hit home last night.
Why do I read? Why do you read? I enjoy reading for a variety of reasons. I enjoy sitting still. As a kid I played outside a fair amount, but not all the time, so reading gave me something to do that I could enjoy indoors. I do read to learn more about other people and places. How would I have learned more about Iran without reading "Persepolis"? How would I have learned about North Korea without reading "Nothing to Envy?". I am an armchair traveler and love to explore countries I may not get to visit by reading about them.
I do use reading as an escape into another life. I can laugh along with Bridget Jones. I can try to solve a crime with Jack Reacher. I can kick some butt with Lisbeth Salander. And, yes, I can laugh with a book as quickly as a book can make me cry buckets. (See: "Elegance of the Hedgehog", "Stones from the River" and "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" to name a few). I don't think that a book making me sad would cause me to stop reading all together.
Now, I can't judge someone from a former Soviet Republic that only received its independence in 1991. I lived in the Ukrainian Village in Chicago and remember the old people walking along the sidewalks on their Independence Day. So, yes, he comes from a country that has been in recession since the early 90s and he and his mother have moved to a foreign country to live. He drives a cab and enjoys it because it allows him to have a flexible schedule and he has been traveling around the United States. Maybe he's had enough sadness in his life that he doesn't need to read sad stories.
So I would not recommend "Montana 1948" to my cab driver. It is a gut wrenching story. I was close to finishing before bed last night and told P. I just wanted to keep reading because I knew it was going to be very sad. And it was. As an adult, David, recounts events that happened when he was 12 years old and living in Montana with his mother and father. The story reminded me of "A River Runs Through It" since is has a dominant father with two sons he does not treat equally. Don't look up any reviews about this one if you want to read it. It's slim and you can finish it in a matter of days and should let the story evolve for you on its own. It is depressing but it's also cathartic. This is our June selection for Newberry and I can't wait for the discussion next week to hear what others think about this book.