Thursday, October 13, 2011

The World As We Know It by Joseph Monninger

The World As We Know ItThe World As We Know It by Joseph Monninger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: A lifetime of friendship begins the day brothers Ed and Allard save Sarah from drowning in an icy river near their rural New Hampshire home. Though their paths diverge through the years, the connection between the three endures until a heartbreaking tragedy in the remote mountains of Wyoming forces Sarah and Allard to confront the unthinkable. In their grief, they find themselves on separate journeys that test the enduring bonds of their relationship and time’s unremitting power to heal. Poignant and transformative, The World as We Know It is subtle and heartrending—a love story of friendship, nature, and the surprising twists that can alter our destinies forever.

My take: Three words: Book Club Book. Or rather, two words, one used twice.

So I read the book description and I read the book club questions at the end of the book and I've concluded that neither scratches the surface of the book's heart.

Part I is the uncomplicated beginnings of the Ed/Allard/Sarah team. Ed and Allard are brothers who share a close, companionable relationship. They sleep in a cold room (mirroring the outdoors) under a large Canadian map and spend their days outside on the Baker River where they meet Sarah who is their new neighbor and hopelessly trapped in the river's current and surrounded by ice, slowly freezing to death while her dog circles her. Ed and Allard save her with rope and a backpack and take her home. They become inseparable, make plans, grow up. Sarah and Allard plan their wedding and eveything is hunky-dory.

This is killing me to not write any spoilers here.

This part of the book is a little boring. The author shares a vast knowledge of the great outdoors and animal habits, etc. If you are only interested in the story about the people, nature can be skimmed. OR the reader can watch the foreshadowing of events in the world of nature. Also, nature is mirrored in many ways in the lives of the three adolescents turn young adults. This is played out beautifully with the pigeons, the river's current, Allard's trapping himself under the ice shelf, Sarah pulling him out, the building of the barn using a method requiring exactness and interconnectedness, the seamlessness of the three's lives with nature and in many, many descriptions throughout the book. My favorite is coming.

I have deleted this paragraph but a spoiler is included in this link HERE. It doesn't tell the end of the book but gives away a key event.

Part II is nearly two years later. Allard is cultivating his talent for art and nature with the film making company (not the one he, Ed and Sarah had dreamed and begun) when Morgan, the film maker takes Allard outside. He speaks frankly and provides insight to Allard's mode of dealing with the tragedy, urging him to tie up the loose ends. Then he takes Allard to the barn where he introduces him to Billy, a damaged and traumatized Clydesdale who was blinded in an act of cruelty by a couple of boys and was further injured in a fence or something. Billy stayed in his safe corner and did not move, viewing (figuratively speaking) everything as a threat. Morgan then demonstrates the tentative bridge of trust he and Billy have built as Morgan sings quietly to the horse who slowly and blindly ambles toward the sound of the one he has grown to trust.

So, by this time I had brought out my #2 pencil and I was writing in the margin and underlining words like "courageous" and "vulnerable" and I began to see the pattern of how man deals with tragedy and traumatic experiences and the healing process. This is again mirrored in nature's canvas. Watching for symbolism but also enjoying both Sarah's and Allard's frank and honest discussions, I heard the ice shelves bumping against one another as they sought continuity. I watched as time melted away when Peter was attacked. I also drew my own conclusions to the symbolism of rope being used as a measure of safety throughout the book.

Part III is the conclusion of forgiveness. At least that's my interpretation. Part II was the beginning of forgiveness while Part III brings it full circle. The idea of time marching on no matter what happens in our lives and the background of the Alaskan tundra makes me feel very small yet the author includes so much interconnectedness that I found myself feeling that I am a part of a much greater whole.

I liked the Reader's Guide but I believe a book club group could find more meaningful and personal discussions by watching for patterns throughout the book.

Or you can just read it for a sweet love story. Either is a nice way to pass a couple of days.

Rated G to PG. Language is poetic and flowing. Swearing is the occasional farm word.

Violence is mostly nature. Even the tragedy is a quiet one and lacks gore.

Sex is occasional and not detailed.

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