Friday, August 13, 2010
In recent years, my mother has developed a rather useful habit of making a mark on the front page of every book that finds its way into her library. Immediately after reading a given novel, she assigns it a rating of 1-10, so that anyone looking through her tomes for something worth borrowing will not be disappointed. I find her system both convenient and reliable, with the number she assigns being a fairly predictable indicator of how much I will enjoy the book(s) I choose.
Today I am assigning my own number, an unqualified 10, to "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet," by James Ford. Not because it is seamlessly written (though it is) and not because it takes place in one of my favorite eras, WWII (though it does), but because the combination of simplicity and depth that permeates the pages of this book makes reading it a rare and rewarding pleasure. It's all there...love, loss, hope, loyalty, betrayal, redemption...the whole of human experience, deftly set in my favorite frame: the family. And, oh, the artistry of it.
How so much emotion can be penned with such a light hand escapes me, but it certainly hasn't escaped Mr. Ford, who tells a compelling and occasionally heart-wrenching story in the most effortless way imaginable. No heavy-handed drama here, and yet a wealth of emotion is written into every page.
And the end is simply beautiful, a gift.
(I hope you will do yourself the favor of opening it...)