Slowly, Then All At Once

I never seem to read books at the “right” time. You’ll probably never find me with the New York Times’ current bestseller, no. Such it was with The Fault In Our Stars. However, I’m quite proud to say I jumped on this bandwagon only ONE year late! Huzzah! My Book Recommender Number One, middle school English teacher Allison (always more timely than I), had been telling me for days weeks months to GET ON IT, so when Dad asked me what books I wanted for Christmas, I didn’t hesitate to add this one to the list.

Oh John Green, you cruel bastard. It has been longer than I can recall since a novel made me cry, but mark the date – January 2, 2014. This is the kind of story you never hope you have the experience to draw from in order to write so magnificently about it. How does a thirtysomething man so adeptly crawl inside the skins of two cancer-riddled teenage lovers? I don’t know, but I’m damn glad he could.

My favorite line of the book: ”As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” It knocked the wind out of me. When did a sentence last hit me so hard I had to go back to read it again and again? Well, I couldn’t tell you, but it’s been a long time. Why was I so affected? Truth be told, I think it is because that’s the way I’ve always hoped to fall in love. I’m not one of the “mad ones”, violently chasing down passionate affairs. I want to be won mile by mile as he lays down the track ahead. I want to be gently wound around his fingers, oblivious to the tightening cat’s cradle he’s making of us. I want him to read me a long love story and catch my breath seven chapters in when I realize it’s the story of us he’s been writing all along.

Hazel and Augustus are ”better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” come to life, with a dark philosophical footnote: even if they believe “love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable.” A perspective I imagine one is more likely to have when you’ve lived a short, exhausting sprint of a life. I find that the more days that pass, the less I can imagine a void, an oblivion. Somehow aging makes me feel both selflessly interconnected to the whole of humanity as well as narcissisticly sure my own growing stack of years (my GOD, there are nearly THIRTY TWO OF THEM NOW?) must be more than the plodding degeneration of cells.

I will return to this story. I feel I need to take the covers in my hands and shake the pages out to see what I missed, probably several times. I can’t fully appreciate it yet. It will probably come slowly, and then all at once.

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