Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Right Book at The Right Time (or, Book Review: House of Dance)

Sometimes, if we're lucky, a book comes into our lives at precisely the right moment that we need it. We may not know it at the time, but as we read, it speaks to us on a level that is more than literary.

Sometimes, if we're lucky, a book brings to us the poetry of language, the dance of words, the vivacity of color in the details.

Sometimes, if we're lucky, a book brings back memories of days long ago, the innocence of childhood.

And sometimes, we get a gift of finding all this in one small treasure.

And if we're really lucky, we actually know the author - even if that knowing is just through her blog.

The book I speak of is this one, which I just finished.

I spent this morning engrossed in the last 100 or so pages of this novel by Beth Kephart, and it's such a fitting book for today. Today my grandparents are so much on my mind, as they would have been married 67 years today. In a sense, they still are. Even though my Mom-Mom has been gone nearly five years now, my Pop-Pop still awakes in the smallest hours of the day, looking for her.

Like Rosie's grandfather, my Pop-Pop appears to be nearing the end of his days (although his fighter's spirit, fading that it is, could very well outlive all of us) and we're conscious, acutely so as February begins, of time. And so is Rosie, all of 15 but much older and wiser than her years as she spends her summer by her dying grandfather's side, sorting through his books and travelogues and music of days long ago and days that once were still to come. In doing so, Rosie discovers her grandfather's story, one of hopes and dreams and "maybe somedays." One that we all can relate to.

When she isn't with her grandfather, Rosie is at the House of Dance. As the summer progresses and her grandfather's health declines, and Rosie's mother's emotional absence becomes more palpable, Rosie plans to give her grandfather a final gift.

I don't want to give much more away here, which I hope is doing justice to this exquisitely layered story of familial love and loss, of the push-pull of parent-child relationships, of time, of music. Of living for the moment, which Kephart is so proficient at capturing the essence of doing.

Two more thoughts: first, don't let the categorization of House of Dance as a young adult/teen novel dissuade you from reading this. Beth Kephart recently wrote that she tries to write for all ages, and in House of Dance, she most certainly does. Secondly, my praise of this novel is separate from my acquaintance with Beth, which I consider a privilege to have. Those of you who know me in real life know that I'm not the type to heap unwarranted praise or to curry favor. I'm certain that I would have been giving House of Dance 5 stars even if I wasn't acquainted with the author through her blog.

Highly recommended and well worth the read.


Beth Kephart said...

Oh, B&BM. Thank you. I am very deeply touched by the very personal way you met this book, so much more than halfway.

I am humbled.

Em said...

This is one of my all time favorite books. Beth's writing is so fabulous. She was so descriptive about the summer and weather, it made me miss summers on the east coast.

Sherry said...

I found this book in a few weeks ago. The perfect time as well. I feel as lucky as you. Thanks for the insights of joy inspired by a terrific book :)

Melissa said...

Em and Sherry ~ Isn't it great when you find people who feel the same way about a special book as you do?

And Beth ~ I am hoping you will sign this one (and my others, if I may be so bold) next Tuesday night.