|January driving conditions|
Waking in the dark is an escape from snow-shoveling dreams.
"It's getting dangerous for us to live here in winter," he tells me, and reluctantly, against my will, I begin to agree. I don't want to understand him, but I do. Falling doesn't count, though. One can fall as easily in town or city as in the country. A daughter-in-law's fall on black ice in her dentist's parking lot resulted in a compound fracture, but here in the country, our paths are like animal trails, and we keep to them when we venture forth from our burrow, so if we fall, it's onto snowbanks, not pavement.
|The landscape is a blur....|
Bills this winter are going to be crushing. That's where winter really hits hardest: fuel bills and plow bills. So we close doors and shrink our footprint, and piles of projects tower and spread, filling the smaller living space until we are like mice in a nest, snug in excelsior. In the morning dark, to rescue me from endless dreams of snow (day's repetition extended through the night), the dog comes to the side of the bed, wanting up, and I pat the covers to issue the invitation she awaits. New country people have queen- or king-sized beds in spacious bedrooms with enormous windows looking out and down onto water or vineyards. Our small, cold, crowded farmhouse bedroom holds an old-fashioned double bed, and three is a crowd in that bed, but it's comforting, too.
The wind will always batter this corner of the world, as far into any future I can imagine, but we're here now. Wind and snow and cold and isolation haven't done us in yet. We're here now. That's my mantra: We're here now.
|Wind sweeps down the hills....|
The Collector of Dying Breaths, by M. J. Rose
NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014
On sale April 8, 2014
This is total escape! Complete, riveting fantasy! Once again, mythologist Jac L' Étoile, daughter of an American mother and French father and heiress to a famed house of Parisian perfumes, is plunged into a whirlwind of mysterious history (16th-century Italy and France this time around) and present danger. Once again she yearns to connect with the man she has always loved but is held back by fear for his happiness and safety. The visions she experiences -- are they memories of past lives or evidence of a brain malfunction? Either way, concern for Griffin North gives her pause, since in all her visions of a past concerning a man who seems like Griffin and a woman she seemed to be, she was responsible for his death!
Now. Here's where I confess that I am not usually a reader of fantasy, apart from Wind in the Willows and Palmer Brown's The Silver Nutmeg, and that romance-suspense is not a genre I generally find appealing, either. And there's more. Belief in reincarnation, religious or otherwise, has no hold on me, and I can become downright irritable when subjected to talk of "past lives." So how does M. J. Rose do it? How does she pull me in time after time? This is the sixth novel in a series, and I've read three of them, which is an extraordinary record, given the subject matter and my reading preferences. How to explain it?
One aspect of these stories often mentioned by reviewers is their wealth of sense detail. Rose's descriptions involve not only the sense of sight but also, tellingly, the senses of smell and touch, much less frequently utilized by fiction writers. Aromas and textures draw readers into Jac's world, and we are so grateful for the sumptuous sensory banquet that we accept all kinds of literary excess. In The Collector of Dying Breaths, for example, the character of Melinoe Cypros, in her old castle outside Barbizon, France, is completely over the top, a kind of cartoonish Cruella DeVilla on the page, with her long tunics and pounds of jewelry and white wings of hair. Everything about her spells DANGER in huge, flashing lights, and it is incomprehensible that Jac will go forward with Melinoe's crazy project! And yet she does -- and we follow with bated breath!
Another, very clever way Rose keeps us hooked in is with Jac's own reluctance to buy into reincarnation. Throughout the series the protagonist moves between flat-out, hard-headed, rational skepticism (rationality always emphasized) and weakening resistance to the temptation of belief. Jac's doubts allow a doubting reader to accompany her on journeys that we skeptics would otherwise have no interest in taking.
So that's life Up North these days, during a brutal Michigan winter. It's a kaleidoscope of adventure and retreat, comfort and hardship, survival and escape. Thank you for joining me in my world today.
|Our parking area when the sun came out four days ago....|