Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The price.

I finished a really good novel last night.

Tana French's "The Likeness" is the sequel to her earlier novel "In the Woods." "The Likeness," deals with a murder and an undercover detective. I won't go too much into the plot so as not to spoil anything, but the general gist of the story involves Cassie, the main character, going undercover into a group of very close friends. These five friends found a very intimate connection, and have moved into together to form a sort of mismatched family. As Cassie learns to integrate herself into this "family," there way of life begin to seem more and more appealing.

The novel really brought some big ideas to my attention. At the end of August, I took a trip to Kirksville and Truman State University to do a 5-year college reunion with my close friends. It was indescribably wonderful. Buildings had changed, businesses had closed and opened, but the overall atmosphere of the city and school were the same. We wandered aimlessly around the campus and the square. We haunted our old haunts, and discovered new ones equally enchanting. Every Kirksville food I touched tasted better than I had remembered, the town seemed more lovely and the campus more beautiful.

Planning the trip, I had completely expected to feel out of place, to enjoy myself and relive some old times, but that was it. I had not imagined I would feel so totally at home. As I looked around, I felt like I had never truly appreciated what had been around me for the four years I lived here. I could hear the excuses in the back of my head. There hadn't been enough time in the day, enough money in the bank, enough good weather. How could I have wasted my time here because of these small inconveniences?

In the novel, the leader of the group of friends, Daniel, talks about this sense of the "real world" encroaching on his lifestyle:

"I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a hero," he said, "and I don't consider myself to be insane. I don't think any of the others are either of those things. And yet I wanted us all to have that chance at freedom..."
"You asked me what I wanted. I spent a lot of time asking myself the same thing. By a year or two ago, I had come to the conclusion that I truly wanted only two things in this world: the company of my friends, and the opportunity for unfettered thought."

After my time at Truman, my mind was equally filled with dreams of what could have been, and returning to the "real world" was a challenge. The normal and sometimes not so happy details of my life seemed trivial in comparison to the dream life in my head. I know that those dreams are not made to last, as much as I may want them to, and Daniel realizes it too:

"It seemed like such a beautiful idea," he said..."The idea was flawed, of course," he said irritably. "Innately and fatally flawed. It depended on two of the human race's greatest myths: the possibility of permanence, and the simplicity of human nature...Our story should have stopped that night with the cold cocoa, the night we moved in: and they all lived happily ever after, the end. Inconveniently, however, real life demanded that we keep on living."

Maybe that's why the world in "The Likeness" seems so inviting, but yet so fragile. Throughout the story, the friends grasp each other tighter to keep their world afloat, but water always seeps in through the cracks. Life cannot remain stagnate, no matter how happy the time may be. "I have always accepted...that there is a price to pay," Daniel says.

The price of a life that stands still, however, is a bit too steep for me.


Jeanne said...

My parents met in Kirksville. I've been wondering if I'd like any of the recent books I've seen by this author. Maybe I would, from your description!

Betty said...

I really liked both of her books. It took me a couple of chapters to "get hooked," but once I did, I couldn't stop reading.

By the by, I'm reading "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" right now and it is such a delight! Thanks for the recommendation! I can't wait to read the others!

Corey Redekop said...

Mm, sounds like a good'un. I've considered the first French book, maybe the time has come.