I am blogging again. My life is lonely and stonish without this community. Stonish (ston/ish) adj. looking or displaying features like a stone.
If you’ve read this blog for a while then you know that I live in fear of seeing ghosts, specifically my grandparents. My mom told me that after a funeral once, when she was scared of the dead coming back as orbs, her father told her, “Why would they come back to scare you, they love you too much to do that.” I believe this is true and so I reconcile this fear with the fear that any ghost that I see will not so much love me, but instead be there to either A. run me out of the place or B. give me visions to the future. I’ve given this a lot of thought. I’m that person who won’t hold their face under the shower head with their eyes closed for too long in case an apparition, or just overall “scary person” is standing behind her.
So. It’s probably not the best idea for me to go on a ghost tour. BUT…I did. (Let me preface this story with the fact that I have had a life long fear of Jafar as an old man from Aladdin. Not sure why, and yes, the Disney version. He’s just old, and crotchety and hunched over, and just one of the more scary of the villains in my opinion). So, when the ghost tour man in Williamsburg brings us to the “Most Haunted House in America” that is, I kid you not, the color of blood (everywhere, even shutters) and dark and ominous at 11:07 at night, I’m already more than freaked out. Then he starts in on the story of the Peyton Randolph House.
It wasn’t the mysterious deaths from back in the day all the way up to EVERY security guard who worked the house in 2011 dying, or the fact that the upper right side windows looked as if a light was shining behind them at 11:07 when everything was pitch black, or the weirdness that no one in our group (of 22 people, I counted) could get a picture of the house. When you tried to take a picture, the iPhone said there was a picture there, but it was just a white screen. No, none of these things got to me, what got to me, was the woman he claimed haunted these lit up windows. He gave her the delicate nickname of “the shrew.” I was gone after that. He described her wringing her hands at the foot of the guest’s bed. She would shake her head and whisper only once, “get out.” She even wore an old-time night cap and night dress which for some reason scares the crap out of me and reminds me of The Night Before Christmas at the same time. See, people, everything connects to books.
It is this “shrew” that kept me up last night reading until 1 am. And every time I woke up to roll over, I made sure not to look around and focused instead on the cats own stonish bodies instead of focusing on something that could or could not be at the foot of my bed. The moral of this story, when you’re scared to death past the middle of the night, there is always a fabulous book to comfort you. I was lucky enough to have Mira Jacob’s The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing. It’s the story of an Indian family that has been transplanted to the dusty desert of the US because the head of household has taken up a career as a brain surgeon. There are so many subplots throughout the 500 page story, but the best by far for me was the story of the children, Akhil and Amina. There’s so much I can say about this book that I have no idea where to begin.
The Eapen family hides their secrets and when they all come to the surface, their house becomes a circus of buzzing activity with family members adding too little spices to dishes of comfort, and women running around trying to give advice to all members of the family. The first inkling that the reader gets that this isn’t the happy American family is when the family visits India and must leave early for a beach getaway because they can’t get along with their Indian relatives. The mother, Kamala, is clearly disappointed that they aren’t still living in India and I found that this argument was the day she let the length between her and India be the true length between her and her husband. There is some fuss in India over relations between Thomas Eapen and his family, but I can’t tell you quite what because then I would ruin it. Disaster strikes for the side of their family still living in India later in the novel. The two most interesting characters of those in India are Ammachy who is a pushy and a braggart grandmother (as they usually are) that is very focused on the honorable way of doing things. Then, Sunil, the brother of Thomas Eapen who might have a bit of a drinking and dancing problem (but don’t worry Mom’s, he’s not dancing on bars or anything, just in the privacy of his own drawing room).
I think this is truly the catalyst for the rest of the book which is filled with wonder and experience. The key to my ghost story up there is that some of the characters in this story see their dead relatives through photos, hiding among the vegetables in the garden, and puffing a cigarette under the bleachers of a very expensive predatory school. The relatives are not haunting the family, so much as invited into the novel as conversationalists. They are the unscary of ghosts, and instead are welcomed. You’re not sure as the reader, whether they’re welcomed due to medical trauma or just because this family is so lost by the departure of these relatives and the way their lived lives have unfolded that they need the guidance of their dead relatives. It’s just brilliantly done in a way that makes it completely believable and I almost feel unlucky that none of my dead relatives have come onto my porch as I read and asked to sit across from me and talk. Then again, I’m not even sure what we would talk about, but I’m sure we would think of something.
Amina, who is arguably the main character, is really interesting on her own. She has left a career of photojournalism after getting THE photo of a man committing suicide off of a bridge. Everyone is willing to pay her an arcade load of money for the photo, but instead of feeling accomplished, she feels finished. She tries out for a position photographing weddings and gets the job spending five years and her sanity there. There are a few kinks in her wedding photos though that lead the reader on an unexpected mission to her transplant home (her American home) where we see the true mix of her strong American identity with her family’s needs that she follow Indian customs. There’s a great juxtaposition of this book between Native American tribes and immigrants from India. There’s also a wonderfully constructed family in a constant state of repair that I found really compelling to read. Truly, every family is dysfunctional in its own way and I love it best when I can find my family in a family so seemingly unlike mine.
- “She’s half grandmother, half wolf, you know,’ Akhil whispered a few seconds later, and already have dreaming, she took it to be truth in a way unfathomable things can be. She had seen the cool lupine glow in her grandmother’s eyes, her arthritic hands curled into paws. In the days that followed, her hand would instinctively cover her throat whenever Ammachy looked directly at her” (307/8061).
- “Burned?’ Amina said, the word aloud unhinging whatever it is in humans that keeps them standing upright and balanced” (2444/8061).
- “Nobody in my dreams understands anybody else” (2496/8061).
And my favorite one, which is the epitome of “Talk Nerdy To Me” |
- “Oh.’ Amina tried for nonchalance, but she didn’t personally know any freshman who had gotten high, or at any rate, high enough to get kicked out of school. Something about it excited her terribly. She wanted to lead Jamie back into the light and check his pupils and reflexes, maybe test his memory” (3898/8061).
This book was kindly given to me by Random House and went on sale YESTERDAY | July 1, 2014. It is SO (emphasis on SO) worth picking up. Also, Mira Jacob is a Goodreads author, and she’s pretty hilarious with her comments, so check her out as well.
Question: Is there a connection between these “orbs” and the bubbles that Fairy Godmother’s come in? Maybe we just have it all wrong, ya’ll.