There was a book I bought, several years ago. One that has sat on my bookshelf for the last fourteen years, accumulating dust.
I pulled it out a few nights ago, for no other reason than I had to. I have an assignment and I need a book with an obvious ‘style’ and this fits the bill.
I’ve often thought about this book, although I haven’t read it since that first time, and only remembered it on occasion. Or rather remembered the second to last page. I loved the climax of this book. It was poetic and beautiful, yet bare and honest; as if the author had opened the pages into his soul and invited us to see the truth.
You have to understand that at the time I bought that book, it was odd. I was in my first year of a Social Work Degree (that I bailed on through the second year), and I went to the University bookstore to buy a sociology text-book.
It was a horrid text-book; all big and pointless and I didn’t like sociology at all, so that was half the problem. It was also insanely expensive as text books often are, leaving little cash free for other indulgences.
Despite this, I found this book on the book shelf. It was sitting there, in the sociology section, spine side out, drawing no attention to itself. There was only one copy; as if the owner expected no one would read it, and maybe they were right.
The title captured me: ‘Life after God” by Douglas Copeland. I was intrigued though differently than I might be now. At that point of my life, I had never questioned anything to do with God. I had grown up in a Christian home and church, Jesus and the Bible were my life; I never thought that it wasn’t the same for anyone else. I was sheltered, that much is true.
So the name of the book perplexed me: Life After God. What could it be about?
Whatever it was I read on the blurb intrigued me enough to throw economic caution to the wind, and I added it to my pile of very expensive text books, and exited the book store, planning to read it as soon as I could.
In memory, it took me a while to get through it, though I can’t recall why. I do know though, that there were several moments I stopped because things either resonated or shocked me. This was not a story for the sheltered, good, little Christian girl (although I might actually argue that now),but it wasn’t the story of a sceptic. It is just the story of a person. A person with fear and faith. Doubt and surety. Questions and answers. A person who is simultaneously waiting for their world to fall apart, while also waiting for it to come together.
It was real.
In a different way than I had known. In a terrifying, beautiful way that intrigued and discouraged me all at once.
And yet… I forgot about that book.
I remembered the end, because it surprised me, at the time I got to it. But apart from that, the story left me.
Until Sunday night.
Like I said, I pulled it out, after scanning my shelves for a work of fiction whose style would be easy to analyse, and because I need to replicate it, I started to read it again.
It’s just as I remembered it; funny and sad, and inspiring and depressing. And the end is just as poignant, as are several parts in the middle.
But what struck me more, is that the book that I never would have read, but did, influenced so much of what I have written since. I have never seen it before, but now it seems so clear. Much of what I’m using now, in my story was born from this. Unknowingly, yet significantly.
The story of Ariana and Dante is so very different to this, and yet not. Because in both, and in most stories come to think of it, it’s all about finding the point. The reason behind it all. The happy ending that comes when you know why the crappy middle bit had to happen. Or shouldn’t have happened, but did anyway.
It’s about the journey. The why of what you do. The purpose, even if you haven’t found it yet.
Or even better, when you have, and yet it surprises you anyway.
Much like a random book on a book shop’s shelf, begging for you to read it.
Changing you when you do.
Have you read a book that resonated with you deeply before?
Or one that surprised you later?