Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Guest Post: Farrell Mason on True Love (The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro)

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unnamed-1Farrell Mason glows, and it’s not just her radiant skin and long blonde hair.  It’s not just her megawatt smile or physical grace.  Farrell has a beautiful energy I can only attribute to her spiritual health and depth.  She has found her joy and calling in her Christian faith, and she lives that faith in a lovely kaleidoscope of ways.

In vibrant and colorful patterns, Farrell is a mother of five, author, blogger, part-time minister and “gypsy cook.”  “Each of these posts requires a great deal of courage, creativity, discipline, perseverance, and crazy hope!” she observes.  “I find that I’m often clumsy in each and struggle more than I succeed, and yet they each illumine my life with such meaning and purpose.”  In her “evergreen chapel” at Radnor Lake, Farrell finds beauty and strength to bring back to the work of daily life.

Much of the work of daily life right now involves the care and nurture of her five children under the age of 12.  “What I would like to impart to my children,” she says, “is very much what I hope to achieve in my writing:  A sense of adventure and curiosity, daring love, humility and self-sacrifice, resilience, compassion, hope and redemption.  And loads of joy, of course!”

She remembers with great clarity and fondness the Sunday afternoons of her childhood, which always involved a glass of milk, a plate of Oreos, and a new book, “one of the greatest gifts my mom imparted to me.”  Now, reading is a spiritual discipline for her.  “I particularly love mystical realism in literature – authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabelle Allende, Paulo Coelho and C.S. Lewis.  I also love the spiritual meditations and poetry of Thomas Merton, Barbara Brown Taylor and Mary Oliver.  In many ways, my own blog, Bread and Honey, is my effort to understand what I believe and try my best at making sense of this world and my place in it.  But it’s also chock full of great recipes, book recommendations, and meditations on the holy fodder of life.”  Bread and Honey is full of grace and beauty, just like Farrell.

Today, she shares her thoughts on a current read that we both found enchanting and deeply meaningful, The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro.

From Farrell:

Unknown-10It doesn’t happen often – Burnett’s The Secret Garden (when I was nine), Coelho’s The Alchemist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, to name a few – where directly after reading the final line I turn back to the first page and begin again.  Either I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the characters that I had wholly given over my heart, or I yearned to tuck back inside the author’s imagination for just a little longer.  Maybe at coming to the end, I realized I may have missed something important, a message left just for me, and so like a seasoned archeologist I return to the mythic landscape to unearth a deeper truth.

In the case of Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel, The Buried Giant, it was the line, “Farewell, my one true love,” on the last page that caught like a barb in my throat, left me dew-eyed, and flipping back to page one.

On the surface the novel is a mythic adventure in the style of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis with ogres, pixies, and she-dragons, knights from King Arthur’s Round Table, gypsy healers, brave warriors, and duplicitous monks.  There is chivalry and betrayal, bloody swordfights and great displays of honor.  But beyond the chainmail and potent dragon’s breath, percolates a tender and genuine love story.  The novel can certainly be read as another epic journey, one happily devoured by my imaginative twelve-year old son.  Or, one can dare to brave the dream-like mist of Ishiguro’s graceful prose in search of the deeper truths about memory, forgiveness, and enduring love.

The Buried Giant opens in medieval, post-Arthurian England where once bloody rivals, the Saxons and the Britons, now live side by side in a tenuous harmony.  A strange and mysterious mist has fallen like a shroud across Ishiguro’s magical landscape causing everyone to lose his or her memory (a vestige of the great Merlin).  At first glance, one might regard it as an act of mercy to not be able to remember the past until you see how the absence of memory affects one’s unique and collective identity.

Imagine if you were thieved of all your memories – both the treacherous and the blissful?  Ishiguro is keen to show how memory is a catch-22 because as we know in our own lives there are some memories that we would just soon lose to the mythical mist and others that continue to light us up from the inside out.  I would be happy to not recall that perfect blue sky day in New York City when the terrorists robbed me of my innocent view of the world, or worse, the heart-break memory when the doctor said those dreadful words, “your son has cancer.”  But the thought that I could not remember sitting on the lawn at Sewanee, two college kids, confessing our love for one another, or the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth time we met another one of our children for the first time (yes, there are five of them!) would be perilous to the spirit.

The key in life is not to allow “the buried giants” of memory to haunt and destruct, but rather redeem and inspire new ways forward.  So often we linger on the bitter instead of having the courage and wisdom to reflect on the whole of lived experience.  Memories are vignettes in the drama, but the heart remains the truest storyteller.  It’s the beauty of free will as everyday we are given the choice: hope or despair, light or darkness, revenge or redemption, death or resurrection.  If only we had more faith in our sage hearts to show us the way.

But now I return to the greatest truth found in that final line of the novel, “Farewell, my one true love.”  I now know I reread the book because I wanted to see what made the relationship between Axl and Beatrice – true love.  It certainly did not spell perfection, for we learn in little revelations that their enduring marriage was not without its secrets and betrayals, but also great humility, compassion, forgiveness, and honor for one another.  Even though they had suffered and could not remember the whole of it, they endured because they trusted the truth that was always right there in their hearts.

What you find in The Buried Giant is an authentic love story between two imperfect people, maybe soul mates, who spend their long lives trying their best to love perfectly.  True love endures because it forgives, and honors, and cherishes, and hopes, and prevails till the end, and as I choose to believe, into the hereafter.

The Buried Giant has taken its place on the shelf for books to be remembered and quite possibly read again!

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