Some gifts, like some books, are harder to love than others, and not as the result of the quality of the writing. In fact in The Embers, Hyatt Bass’s debut novel, she writes in eloquent, if at times dense, detail about the Ascher family, Joe, Laura, and Emily, a family that is broken one day in late winter when one makes a careless mistake that costs the life of another. That in itself is so hard to live with through the pages and what little is said about this tragedy between the members of the Ascher family afterward only serves to drive them farther apart. But then some years later, there’s an opportunity for a reunion; the occasion is a wedding, to be held at the very site where the tragedy occurred, where a beloved son and brother lost his life. You might want to put this story down given the nature of the calamity, the tangle of blame, the frustration of missed communication, but you can’t. You’re going to have to find out about that wedding. How will it work out? How can this family that lost so much possibly come back together at what must be for them the hardest place on earth? There is potential for a tidy, convenient ending, but matters of forgiveness, of the human heart, are seldom tidy. The Embers is a good read, as honest to the very end as it is unflinching in its portrayal of human nature in all its welter of contradiction and striving for love and connection.
Earlier this week, Colleen and I went to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", the extraordinary movie based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I loved it. Colleen not s'much. (I was sitting there choked in tears at the end of the three hour film, so I only vaguely remember her saying something about "watching paint dry.") I want to see it again, so I'm trying to get the Gare Bear to go with me this weekend, but I won't be surprised if he reacts the same way Colleen did. The movie is long. And odd. It requires patience and a complete suspension of disbelief that modern audiences simply aren't trained for, so you've got to be in the right mood for it. The same is true of the short story, though the story and script have very little in common -- at least superficially. The story is very Fitzgerald (though it's not an example of his best writing, IMHO), and the setting -- Baltimore during the industrial revolution, Spanish Americ