First of all, this is an excellent model for anyone who would aspire to write a personal history. The story’s easy and sometimes random flow of reminiscing demonstrates the simple memories and events which make a person come alive. It’s the daily routine from which we evolve even though the unusual experiences often change the course of our lives. As far as I recall, the woman whose life is recounted never gives her name, yet oddly enough this anonymity served to personalize it even more.
This story’s rendering is as unique as its enigmatic cover, which fits perfectly as you journey through the memoirs of a woman who has experienced the kind of life most of us would want; one with loving parents, kind siblings, faithful spouses and children who honor their parents. On the surface this could be considered too idealistic and even be a put-off to readers who have experienced divorce, abuse or perhaps harbor bitterness toward past events as well as anyone who sees it solely on the superficial level. On another more spiritual level it’s an effective allegory for what each of us may experience when the time comes as viewed through one woman’s life as it parades before her while she lingers at death’s door. Of course the season is winter, so often used as an analogy for the declining years and end of life, an archetype which operates at the subconscious level and makes the message more powerful.
I suppose this book hit home for me not only because I am now a retiree looking back on my life but also as someone who was raised in a family which gave even the Bunkers and Bundys some level of appeal. My upbringing was far from ideal and I likewise raised a family with a less than illustrious history regarding interpersonal relationships. Nonetheless this sweet story helped me remember the good times even while grieving for that which never was. Its pages chronicle the life so many aspire to yet never achieve, one of intergenerational love and dedication accompanied by an easy flow of income that precludes the stress and trials of financial woes. Unrealistic? Of course. Idealistic? Ditto. A person lacking depth could see this story as schmaltzy and sentimental. Yet without an ideal before us how can perfection be visualized much less attained? The question we should ask is not do such families exist but rather why not?
Another element this story captures at the soul level is that of meaning, that there are connections between us all. There are no coincidences. Everything happens for a reason and there’s a lesson in every experience. Beyond all else it begs the question, “Until we can each get along and perfect our families how can there possibly be hope for the world?” Its message will stay with me for a long time, a book I’ll never forget.
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