A Week in the Sunshine

James Hayman: Those of you who read my last blog on this site, A Moving Experience, know that my wife Jeanne and I have just survived the rigors of moving from our house on Peaks Island to another on the mainland.

In our minds, we have achieved a minor level of Nirvana.  The furniture has been moved around often enough so that it’s now sits quietly where Jeanne wants it.  The boxes that are going to be unpacked are unpacked, the items inside put away in drawers and pantries and bookcases.  The rest are stacked, more or less neatly, in the basement where they will hopefully sit until they carry us out.

We love our new place.  It is a small but elegant 1909 colonial in the Back Cove section of Portland with a new furnace, a recently renovated and well designed kitchen and best of all a lovely view of the Cove.  Admittedly, the new view is not as amazing as the old view we had in our oceanfront place on the island where we could stand, looking through a two story wall of glass and watch the Noreasters send the waves crashing against the rocks.  But it’s still pretty special and we consider ourselves lucky to have found the place on our first day of house hunting.

Now that the move is over, we have left our adult son watching over the place and taken off for a week of doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and reading in the Florida sunshine. We’re guests of two old and dear friends who are kind enough to invite us each year for a week or two in their modest but perfect house right on the beach on Longboat Key which sits between Bradenton and Sarasota. We walk out the back door and we’re walking on sand.

While my wife Jeanne and our hostess and fellow artist also named Jeanne have declared their intention to visit local galleries.  I have declared my intention of doing nothing at all but reading and getting a tan.  Happily the weather seems to be obliging.  After a cool and rainy first day, the sun came out yesterday and according to weather.com will reward us with abundant sunshine for the rest of our short stay.

I am reading and enjoying immensely Kate Atkinson’s terrific and ambitious new book called Life After Life. If you’ve read Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie mysteries in the past (the last being Started Early, Took My Dog) you know how good a writer she is. If not, I highly recommend her.

The book is a true tour de force. One of those books I wish I had written if only I had the talent to write it as well as Atkinson has.  It is the ultimate tale of “what if?” What if the heroine had only turned that way when she was X years old instead of going this way,  things in her life might have turned out to be entirely different.  What if she had turned yet another way when she was a few years older.

The heroine is question is Ursula Todd who is born on a snowy night in 1910 to wealthy British parents and through the course of the book takes a dozen or maybe more routes through her life.  On the first path she dies by drowning in the sea at the age of two.  But then she doesn’t die. She takes a different path and doesn’t die until later.

Hard to describe but amazing to read. Gillian Flynn, the author of Gone Girl blubs the book this way: “One of the best novels I’ve read this century. Kate Atkinson is a marvel. There aren’t enough breathless adjectives to describe LIFE AFTER LIFE: Dazzling, witty, moving, joyful, mournful, profound.

It is one of the few times I totally agree with a blurb.  At 562 pages Life After Life is hopefully long enough to see me through my week in the sun because I know it will be emotionally anti-climactic to have to start another book just before I leave.

I’ll be returning all too soon to cold and snowy Maine where I’ll be joining a panel of my fellow Maine crime writers at an author’s panel at the York Public Library on February 18th at 7:00 PM.

If you can make it to the panel, you’ll be able to recognize me by the deep brown tan I’ll be sporting.  At least you will if the sun does indeed hold out for the rest of the week.

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3 Responses to A Week in the Sunshine

  1. I read Life After Life last year, Jim, and you’re right — it is amazing. One of those books you truly do not want to end.

    Enjoy your vacation and I look forward to seeing your new house some day!

  2. MCWriTers says:

    Thanks Vicki. Hope we can make that happen.

  3. Barb Ross says:

    I love Kate Atkinson and I LOVED Life after Life. What a book.

    Bill and I just returned from Florida and this is my first Monday morning in the frozen north. I keep wondering–why did we come home?


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