This has been a difficult week for our community – at the beginning of the week, two beautiful fifteen year old girls died in a car accident. They went to our sister high school in our district, our big rivals, at the onset of spirit week leading up to the rivalry football game, the week leading up to their school’s homecoming. A week that should be spent in spirit activities and dance preparations has been spent in shock and mourning. Our own high school, who suffered a loss of their own in the death of a recent graduate earlier this summer, stepped up to a plate they didn’t want to face. Instead of “Beat U-High” the motto became “Unite”. Instead of “We are CV” it was “We are CVSD”. Instead of wearing our colors, our students choose to be decked out in their rival’s crimson and gold. When one of the student’s father requested donations to Toys for Tots, our students sprang into action with “Toys for Titans”. At the volleyball game, our girls gave their team hugs and roses. We had students go to the candlelight vigil, go to the soccer game to stand with a team having to take the field for the first time since the loss of one of their players. Our football team and theirs wore a matching “Unite” sticker at the game, and our Marching Band skipped preliminary warm-ups at a competition on Saturday so they could be in the stands to support U-High’s Band during their performance. There have been tears, multiple moments of silence, shared food, shared hugs, and at the end, an entire gym floor was filled with new toys.
As I was going to sleep last night and thinking of the past week – of two girls just beginning their lives now forever frozen in photographs, of students struggling to understand the whys that are beyond comprehension – two words came to my mind. I think of all the schools throughout the Hinterland that contributed toys and sent banners of support, and I think of all the giving, not just of material goods, but also of the intangible – the sharing of grief and the sharing of spirit. An entire community wrapped their arms around this school, these students, these families. When I think of that, the word that comes to mind is grace. And when I think of these teenagers, these children (for they are still children) and how much of what happened in the past week came from them; how it was student led and student driven, peer to peer. And then I think of all the young people I know, how they can focus and commit to something larger than themselves, how they can step outside of the self and see others around them. I see how they have such an awareness of both the immediate present and of the greater world. And when I think of that, I think of hope.
Here is what caught my interest this week:
Susanna Kearsley is more known for her books involving time travel but her latest, reviewed by Danielle of A Work in Progress, is more of a mystery with a dual timeline set both in the present and WWII. Every Secret Thing features journalist Kate Murray who is approached by a man talking of a long-ago murder and in the next moment, he is dead at her feet. This leads her to her grandmother’s mysterious past during the war and soon she is off trying to find answers.
Another suspense novel that caught my eye is only available on electronic readers but it is very affordable and sounds, if you like suspense, like fun. The Nearest Thing to Crazy by Elizabeth Forbes and reviewed by Fleur in Her World, is about a married woman, Cassandra, who finds herself alienated from her friends and family by seemingly unknown reasons. This all starts after a glamorous new neighbor moves in and now Cassandra finds herself missing appointments, misreading social cues and situations, and misinterpreting conversations. Gossip runs rampant and people begin to question Cassandra’s sanity. I have some thoughts about what is happening and now I want to find out if I am right.
A more serious novel came to me from Reading Matters, Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke and translated by Cindy Carter. Lianke is a Beijing novelist whose work is frequently banned in China. After the first edition was sold out, Dream of Ding Village was also banned, even though the author admitted self-censoring his writing to avoid such a fate. In the early 1990’s, the Chinese government encouraged rural villagers to donate blood plasma to supplement their incomes. Poor hygienic practices, corruption, and safety issues led to an estimated one million plus people in Henan Province alone with HIV/AIDS. These rural villagers have received little to no support or health care and Lianke’s novel sets this larger tragedy in a small Henan village bringing it to a human level. I remember reading a little about the AIDS crisis in the paper several years ago and I now want to know more.
Once again Chrisbookarama sent me into the internet with another one of her posts – this one features The 50 Scariest Books. I spent some time on the list. I was a little surprised as I traditionally don’t do scary but I have actually read 9 of the 50 and I want to read House of Leaves by Mark. S. Danielewski which would make it an even 10.
And Farm Lane Book Blog has a short synopsis of this year’s shortlist for The Booker Prize.