To be drawn into a well-written story is the very reason I read books. To read fiction and believe it as nonfiction.
The Winter in Anna was one of those well written stories.
I will tell you, I shudder to think of the dark places author Reed Karaim had to go in order write this book. Yikes.
You see, on page one in paragraph one Anna commits suicide in a manner I would have never imagined. I literally needed to step away from the book before turning to page two. Yes, the shock of the act was part of it, but what was most dominant was the sorrow that washed over me.
Her death was horrible.
Why choose that way?
My God, how painful!
Then 256 pages later, there was closure, and understanding.
* * *
Anna. This beautiful and unspeakably pained woman. How my heart hurt for her and yet how many times I admired her, all at the same time.
Karaim wastes no time in showing us Anna is a woman of many scars – physical and emotional. As dark as this may sound, his ability to take that pain and show its evolutionary process over the years was something I really enjoyed about his writing.
She struggled from her teenage years until she decided to die, but her role as mother, and the responsibility of giving her children the life they deserved was a relentless pursuit of hers. At least, that is my opinion. I’m sure one can make an argument to the contrary, but all in all she adored, and did all she could, for those kids of hers.
Our narrator is Eric. He tells us of Anna’s suicide, shortly after he learns about it himself. For the next 250+ pages, he recalls his time in getting to know her, or rather, as much as she would permit him to know. When she would close the emotional door on him, he told us more of himself.
I have to tell you, when we see Eric as a 20/21-year-old kid, he isn’t very likable. Not at all. Furthermore, I don’t think he realizes it. Today, it is a mature Eric that tells us this story and I found him very easy to like. He grew into a good man. I have a sneaking suspicion that was the author’s intent.
When the time came to close the book, and the story had been told, I wanted to know them both.
I wanted to visit Anna’s final resting place. To sit with her, pray she found peace, and trace the outline of her headstone (similar to that day she and Eric visited the cemetery).
On the other hand, the testosterone driven part of me wanted to save her. To locate the nearest phone booth, change into my cape and fly into that woeful motel room. I would swoop in and whisk her away. Fly her off to paradise … or Bismarck, ND … either/or… just somewhere else, with the hope she will find reason to live for another day, week, month, year …
But the main problem with the latter is this: “Who am I to interfere with someone’s decision on life or death?”
No one. Besides, I can’t fly. Therefore, it’s moot, and I remain on the outside looking in.
I do not want this to sound like I am giving her suicide a shrug of the shoulders and call her a victim, though. The decisions Anna made in her life were her own. She is responsible for her life. But I will also tell you there were a number of circumstances that were not her doing that had a serious impact on her well being. I think it is how we react to tragedy – and all of life’s events – that serves as the chisel, which carves the sculpture of who we are to become over the years.
You can argue she should have been a better mother, but I would contend she did put the kids first. There were times that may have been a significant challenge but she took responsibility for herself as a mother.
My fiancé is reading this now and so far her reaction is markedly different from mine. Only halfway through, it has not gripped her yet. This is equal parts surprising and interesting to me because we are usually on the same page when it comes to books. We like and dislike the same ones. But every now and again one comes along, and we differ. I very much look forward to her finishing. I want to see if her opinion changes. I want to talk at length about the book I enjoyed so much.
I reckon that is the telltale sign of a good book, don’t you? The kind that stays with you days after you have finished it? The kind you cannot wait to talk to others about ad nauseam.
I’d say so about The Winter in Anna.
This is the second book by Reed Karaim.
Words I learned while reading: As I have said in a previous blog, one of my favorite parts of reading is constantly learning words I have either (a) never heard before (b) words I have heard and possess only a vague understanding of and (c) words I thought I knew but discovered I didn’t. Here is the contribution that I received from Reed Karaim’s The Winter in Anna.
Furtive – attempting to avoid notice or attention, typically because of guilt or a belief that discovery would lead to trouble; secretive. Prow – the forward most part of a ship’s bow that cuts through the water. Desiccated – lacking interest, passion, or energy AND dehydrated or powdered. Profligacy [prof-li-guh-see] – a noun meaning reckless extravagance or wastefulness in the use of resources. Archipelago* [ahr-kuh-pel-uh-goh] a large group or chain of islands or any large body of water with many islands. Chasm* – an adjective that is a profound difference between people, viewpoints, feelings, etc. It can also mean a sundering breach in relations, as a divergence of opinions, beliefs, etc., between persons or groups. Obsidian – a hard, dark, glass-like volcanic rock formed by the rapid solidification of lava without crystallization. Somnolent – sleepy, drowsy. Torpor – a state of decreased physiological activity in an animal, usually by a reduced body temperature and metabolic rate. Torpor enables animals to survive periods of reduced food availability. Photogravure /fōdəɡrəˈvyo͝or/ – an image produced from a photographic negative transferred to a metal plate and etched in from which ink reproductions are made. Staccato – with each sound or note sharply detached or separated from the others. Scimitar /ˈsimədər,ˈsiməˌtär/ a short sword with a curved blade that broadens toward the point, used originally in Eastern countries. Crenellation – a pattern along the top of a parapet (fortified wall), most often in the form of multiple, regular, rectangular spaces in the top of the wall, through which arrows or other weaponry may be shot, especially as used in medieval European architecture. Phantasmagorical [fan-taz-muh-gawr-ik, -gor-] (sometimes phantasmagorical) having a fantastic or deceptive appearance, as something in a dream or created by the imagination. Sere dry; withered.