For 17 months I battled a brain injury which left me unable to read, process anything complex, follow plots or retain information. I could only listen to chapter 1 of my favorite childhood book, Alas Babylon, every night as I battled insomnia because I knew that story for 30+ years pre-injury. I was a mess.
Then at about the two year mark, my brain recovered. One of the greatest gifts I received was my ability to read. Believe me, your world becomes hopelessly small when you are unable to escape into the pages of a book and nothing of substance crosses your frontal lobe.
I attempted to restart my book review blog shortly after healed, but I was paralyzed with fear. How could I judge the quality of anyone’s work? What if my brain was still broken and I was incorrect in my opinions or understanding of the material? Who was I to judge anyone’s efforts? After so long with a silent brain, I now even embrace “bad” material because I can. I can follow a plot and care about characters again. Give me something to read, and I will find something to celebrate about it because I’m so joyous to understand words.
So, I’m back to try again, but this time with a goal. I saw this challenge on the internet and thought it a good way to dip my toes back into book reviewing. I’m going to travel the US state by state via books set in each of the 50 states, and DC because she should be one.
My reading speed is much slower than before the illness, but I will make my way across the country eventually.
I am starting this journey in one of my favorite places in the world – the beach. “Barefoot” by Elin Hilderbrand is set on Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts. Featuring three women, each with baggage far too heavy to carry, this novel evokes a lot of feels. I found myself dog-earring pages (a sin for some, but to me the sign of a well loved book) which I wanted to come back and reflect upon. Although these women are younger than me, I could relate to their troubles – illness, stupid choices, impulsive behavior. I also fell in love with their community of support they created. In our world of long distance relationships, I yearn for close girlfriends who could put aside daily life and rally around me in a pinch.
Hilderbrand does an excellent job of weaving the stories together. Each character is developed enough that the reader can relate to her and root for her, while also making the communal story just as important. In life we each walk our own journey, and if we are lucky enough, we have a path filled with friends and family who weave their way to our destination with us. I also appreciated the locale as an important character in itself. The sounds, smells, visual descriptions of this place of peace reminded me of my own frequent trips to the Jersey shore, and how important the summer feel was to my childhood.
This was my first Hilderbrand book, but it won’t be my last. I really enjoyed her style and characters. I read this one versus audio book, my first book purchase from a brick and mortar since getting well! Because much of the writing hit home with me, I was glad that this was one I could read slowly, highlight and re-read versus the narrator determining the speed for me.
To see more works by this author, please visit: http://www.elinhilderbrand.net/
If you have suggestions for books set within the US for me to try (including Young Adult please), comment and I’ll check them out.
And to track my journey, please use this link (also found at the top of the blog) to see the map: