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“But If You Try Sometime, You Just Might Find”

This morning I went to the park with a fiction book and read in natural, outdoor  light. It was a hardback book. I had snacks, put my bare feet in the grass and forgot about everything for awhile.

I’d begun to wonder if I was still able to focus on reading a book from beginning to end in a reasonable amount of time; there are fewer books I can really get into anymore. This one was called Line of Fire by Stephen White. It’s the second to last book in a series he began about 18 years ago. I’ve read all of them except the one before this, The Last Lie, which I just picked up from the library today. I liked them all except for Kill Me.

I enjoy them because he’s a great storyteller. What he writes about Colorado, the Front Range and Boulder and their residents, he nails.  I used to live there.  He’s a clinical psychologist in real life and I’ve learned lots from the way he presents his characters. He also has a great deal of interesting knowledge about multiple sclerosis. Almost everything he presents in his stories is never boring and he’s someone I’d like to have around just to hear his perceptions on things. I trust him. I like the thread of humor and irony that run through the books. They’re easy for me to read and intellectually stimulating at the same time, if that makes sense.

This book does not have a happy ending. Two of the main women characters didn’t make it ~ one died and the other’s life is in ruins in a way there’s likely no way out. Another woman did not fare well several books ago. By now you may have noticed I don’t like that kind of entertainment but with these books I never feel manipulated, abused or tricked as a reader. The payoff of reading them is worth the awful circumstances that some of the characters have been in. In the last book which is yet to come, I can only hope that Alan Gregory, Sam Purdy, the kids and the dogs will be all right.

“You Get What You Need”

I found these books by accident. They are considered suspense or thrillers, a genre I won’t read. I don’t even consider suspense books; my eyes glaze over when they’re presented somewhere.

Several years ago when I was living in Boulder County, Colorado, I had to leave for what I thought would be a three week care-taking visit. It turned into five months and was one of the most hellish times of my  life. I felt cut off from comfort or support and there was little relief around at all.

Someone in the area I was visiting, who heard of my homesickness, (I was longing for my own bed and bathtub, etc.), had a complete collection of what was then about 12 or 13 Stephen White novels. They loaned me all of them. Not only did I enjoy reading about places around Boulder and the Front Range I knew well, but I enjoyed many other aspects of the books and learned a lot in a painless sort of way. Best of all it gave me a temporary escape from an intense and-did-I-mention-hellish time of my life. It felt like a personal lifeline from the universe. I hope you know what I mean by that. Or maybe I don’t; we don’t all have to experience some things.

The point I’m trying to make is that there are likely bridges, crutches, life-line-like distractions all around that can help us get through. Something within our reach, not destructive to ourselves or others and often casually offered by someone who may not know us well at all. It might be from an unlikely “genre” that we’d otherwise overlook.

And we might not ever know when something we offer out into the great soup of our mass humanity really touches someone or helps them get through a rough patch when they feel like they’re at the end of their rope.