I am a sucker for a new year’s resolution. In fact, all of those kind of things. Name your favourite moment of the year/holiday (how we scorned my father when he asked us that growing up, and how much I enjoy it now), what’s your top ten x y or z, what personality type are you (ISTJ, Myers Briggs aficionados)… in short any thing that puts structure onto messy old life. I think that’s why I love fiction: like real life, but with themes, messages, structure.
This year I have gone simple with my resolution, and I think it’s the most important one I’ve ever made. In fact, I think it’s absolutely critical to life. I think perhaps I will make it every year. It is simply this:
Too often in recent months I found myself actively resisting a smile from time to time to better make my point: choosing to stay poker-faced to keep face. There’s no way this made me any more fun. I have my reasons: I’m knackered, I’ve a newborn, I’ve a toddler. In short, I’m grumpy as all hell. But it’s just as much an unchecked wish to be right, or martyrish. Do I really take myself so seriously that I can’t embrace the absurd a bit more? Do I have to be so set in imposing manners on my toddler that I can’t appreciate her glee when she evades me? (Answer: sometimes yes, sometimes no.) I want to laugh as much with my husband now as I used to (admittedly a tough brief given sleep deprivation and decidedly lower alcohol consumption than back in the day.) But just thinking of these 2 words has already turned some situations from strop to giggle. It may well be the best resolution I ever made.
A A Gill style (rest in peace, my favourite journalist), this has nothing to do with The Secret Life of Bees. But here’s an 100-word rundown for you, as that seemed to go down well last time:
Set in the 1960s American south, TSLOB tells the tale of a white girl run away from her abusive father into the arms of a black matriarchal community. While race is the most obvious theme, this is a book about motherhood and belonging –its strong female community reflecting the famous The Colour Purple. But while it grapples with institutional racism and mental illness, TSLOB is less gritty. The matriarch is an almost symbolic figure of perfection rather than a person of nuanced flaws. But that’s what makes it a warm, life-affirming read even while lacking the rawness of Walker’s masterpiece.
No laughs as such (though what is more warm and life affirming than laughter?) but I’m working to supply those myself.