Wednesday, November 03, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 42

Earlier this year, one of my college friends wrote a review of The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson. After reading her review, I decided to add it to my reading list. I finally got a hold of a copy and overall I would say that I really liked it. It reminded me a lot of the movie Steel Magnolias {one of my favorites}. 

I don't know that I am sold on the writing style. It is about five women, but told through the voices of four of them. Each chapter is from the point of view of that particular character. This seems to be a trend lately. I would say that one of the original author's to use this technique was Faulkner in The Sound and the Fury. More recent books that employ this style are The Help Little Bee and Commencement. Some authors do a great job, some are mediocre. For me, The Sweet By and By fell somewhere in the middle.

Todd Johnson approaches the subject of southern women who are aging and approaching death. It is a difficult subject that we don't particularly like to think about. It seems that our society is more bent on marginalizing the elderly than we are including them as a part of society. Johnson does a great job of dealing with this subject matter as well as writing from a woman's perspective. I would definitely recommend this book.

Passages that stuck with me from the book:
It's awful to know things in your mind that won't come out of your mouth. Sometimes I give up, but most of the time I go ahead and say whatever comes, and if it rubs your the wrong way, I'm sorry.

I look down at the closed eyes. This is a position that is so familiar to me, seeing someone lean their head back into my sink with their eyes closed. They look peaceful, like they can let go of everything for a few minutes, not think about anything, and let somebody take care of them by running water through their hair and fingers over their scalp.

Rising up when you're weak makes a person stronger. By standing, they're saying that Rhonda matters and they matter too. I feel better when I think about how showing respect to one person makes every person worth more. Standing in this crowd makes the ladies as much a part of life as anybody else.

A funeral home is a safe place for death only, while a church building at least gets to witness every stage of life.

There's only one thing I worry about and that's getting lonely... loneliness will creep up on anybody at any time. You go on doin what you been doin all your life, one day to another, and then the next thing you know, there's nobody around. That's when you know you're old, when all your people start dieing and your phone don't ring and you don't feel like puttin up a Christmas tree cause who's gon see it but you. And you don't bother to plant flowers in the spring cause you decide they're too much trouble to take care of. And even though you love to cook more than anything, you stop turnin on the stove. And you don't want to put on clothes because you ain't goin nowhere. And you tell the sames stories over and over cause having new stories means livin and you're not living, you're sittin in your chair or lying in a bed with the only thing going on being what's in your head. And the thing that you never let yourself think about has happened: people have forgotten you.

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