We read The Maytrees by Annie Dillard for last month's book club--a challenging and hypnotic read. I passed it on to a good friend's mother who is an avid reader. I've lost my chance to go back and pick out parts of the text that I highlighted, but I did find some notes with words for which I had to use the dictionary: "tatterdemalion", "pauciloquy", "epistomeliac". Have you ever read any Dillard? Pilgrim at Tinker Creek or The Writing Life? She is a lover of rare words. They are sprinkled into spare prose like hot peppers into a plain soup.
The Maytrees is a meditation of love set on Cape Cod with an assortment of eccentric characters. Lou and Toby, bohemian painter/poets, fall quickly, madly in love, but as it turns out, Toby does this quite often. At age 42, after the birth of his son, he leaves his wife for another woman. Lou falls apart and gets it back together by making daily treks to Pilgrim Monument. Her son grows up to be a fisherman. Toby's wife, Deary, is on her death bed when he asks if he can move back in with Lou. She invites them to come live with her. Under these extraordinary circumstances, Lou and Toby find their way back to each other. Love, birth, loss, and two beautifully told death scenes are bound together by the theme of forgiveness.
Right before I started reading this book, I was sitting in church listening to a sermon on forgiveness. This does not come easy to me. While I am able to forgive little daily trespasses (I have a teenager for crying out loud), I can not forgive the big things. The Rector asked us to consider letting go of hurt and anger and forgiving someone who had done us harm in the past. I mentally checked out and did a grocery list. "Not gonna happen." My husband is always amazed (appalled??) that I remember every little insult/hurt/slight/comment over the course of my life. He likes to point out some are imagined. But the big ones aren't, and I will never forgive certain things that have happened to me. I am not proud of this at all.
So when I started reading this book it was hard for me to imagine how Lou would welcome home her husband after he ran off with another woman. Usually when I read a novel I like to imagine what I would do in certain situations. How would I have responded to this? The fact that his wife (for whom he had callously thrown over for a mutual friend) allowed him to bring Deary to her home to die really made me think hard about the way forgiveness can be freeing. Not that I think I would be capable of doing that, but that it speaks to the power of how we heal.
4 days ago