William M. Sachs
February 19, 1931 - December 15, 2013
It was my husband Graham’s idea to buy the houseboat. The notion took shape on the first leg of our move from Illinois to Miami, between pulling away from the cottage in Round Lake and stopping at the county fair outside of Peoria, where we urged our three-year-old, Frankie, into a gargantuan bouncy castle. For a few minutes Frankie seemed to take some pleasure in jumping haphazardly among strangers, until he remembered that he didn’t like strangers, and staggered lock-kneed toward the exit. I mention this interlude in the long drive for one reason: a few minutes after we walked away from the enormous cartoonish castle, a gust of wind upended it, bouncing children and all. Ambulances arrived quickly. As we stood among the anxious crowd, I thought—not for the first time and not for the last—that to be a parent is terrifying. Graham once told me how the Stoics practiced imagining their own worst fears had come to pass, to make peace. But it seems to me that what worries us most—pedophiles, kidnappers, dog attacks—is least likely to happen, while what is most likely is some unimagined event. And how do we prepare for that?
I don’t sleep well—it’s a problem, yes, but it’s a problem on a par with losing your grocery list before getting to the store. I don’t talk about it, but when it does come up, people are sympathetic. Most people have a passing association with insomnia, and they know it’s an experience they don’t care to repeat. I want to tell them how much worse it can be. Perhaps the closest relative to Graham’s experience is chronic pain—recurrent migraines or crippling arthritis, for example. Living under the thumb not only of the pain itself, but also of the threat of a full-on outbreak. People with these conditions know a bit about what it’s like to live as Graham did, in perpetual discomfort and perpetual fear.
The course of a life will shift—really shift—many times over the years. But rarely will there be a shift that you can feel gathering in the distance like a storm, rarely will you notice the pressure drop before the skies open. That morning, as Frankie and I had plodded from errand to errand, led around by the hermit’s list like animals on leashes, I’d known on some level that this was one of those times. I would like to believe that I wouldn’t again make the mistake of walking in blindly. Then again, blindly is the only way I would have walked in.
Every time I arrived at Stiltsville, I experienced a strong sense of inverted, irrational nostalgia. It was as if rather than being there in that moment, I was somewhere else, wishing I could be there. It wasn’t unlike the feeling I had sometimes after putting Frankie to bed, even after a long day, even if I’d been relieved to say good night—sometimes I was seized by the desire to wake him just to be in his presence again, to reassure myself of him. The strange reverse-nostalgia itched at me every time I stepped from the boat to the stilt house dock, and it was several minutes before I could slough it off and relax. I think as much as anything else it was a weighty sense of gratitude, as well as the foreknowledge that whatever this was—this occupation, this friendship, this parallel life—it would not last forever.
Jellyfish season came early that year. I was in the office and Charlie and Frankie were sitting in the rocking chairs on the porch, taking turns with a pair of binoculars. Through the window, I heard Charlie say, “What is it?” When I looked out, I saw Frankie make the sign we’d learned, one hand against the other, pulling away and moving back again.
I couldn’t see them at first, but a moment after they appeared the water was thick with them. They came in a wind sock pattern, a leviathan in aggregate, dense at the start before petering out. Charlie told us this was called a bloom, that it happened every summer, usually not until August. It was still only mid-July, but there had been a rash of small storms in the Atlantic, and they’d washed in prematurely.
In the time I’d spent at the stilt house, I’d learned a good bit about its logistics. I knew that the generator came on only to cook meat or boil water, and for showers—Charlie didn’t abide cold water—and I knew that Charlie always closed the bedroom and bathroom doors, to cut off the hottest part of the house. I knew that on particularly beastly days, Charlie draped dark sheets over the bedroom windows, keeping out as much heat as possible. I knew that sometimes this wasn’t good enough, so he dragged one of the spare mattresses onto the eastern porch and slept there until his own bed was habitable again. I learned that there were mosquitoes at Stiltsville, but not many, and only on evenings with very little wind, and there were none of the no-see-ums that hounded us in the canal. There were a few cockroaches around, too, and once I’d asked Charlie where they came from—for a second I wondered if maybe they could swim—and he cocked his head at me. “They come with us,” he said.
This is the best audio presentation that I've experienced to date!! Mary Beth Hurt WAS Hildy Good. I loved her raspy voice and she absolutely nailed the accent and the whole vibe of the character. I was struck with how immediate the faces, the houses, and the whole town came to life within my mind as I was listening. There was never a dull moment and I found myself anxiously wanting to return to my iPhone to listen to the story.
Recommend? YES! This will probably be in my top favorite books and audios of the year! Hildy captured my attention from her very first sentence, she made me laugh out loud at her inappropriate thoughts, shaking my head in exasperation at her justification of "it's only wine, I can handle my wine." This was a brilliant audio production of a stellar book!!
I like a house that looks lived in. General wear and tear is a healthy sign; a house that's too antiseptic speaks as much to me of domestic discord as a house in complete disarray. Alcoholics, hoarders, binge eaters, addicts, sexual deviants, philanderers, depressives - you name it, I can see it all in the worn edges of their nests.
Spring arrived overnight, as if winter, like some unwanted guest, had abruptly shrugged its way into its coat and vanished, without saying goodbye. Everything became greener, the roads bathed in watery sunshine, the air suddenly balmy. There were hints of something floral and welcoming in the air, birdsong the gentle backdrop to the day.
Some mistakes...just have greater consequences than others. But you don't have to let that night be the thing that defines you.
There are millions of love stories out there but few that get to the core of what the couple means to one another, a meaning beyond physical attraction and personal fulfillment. But the story JoJo Moyes has written of Will Traynor and Lou Clark goes exactly there.
This is a complex novel, examining much more than the love between two people. It also examines how our lives can enrich one another, and how we can reach beyond our fallibilities and limitations to show how much we truly care. It is very powerful and deeply moving. (Bellezza)
I won't tell you how the book ends, apart from saying that I was a bit astonished to find the story both heartbreaking and beautiful without being depressing. Me Before You is a love story, but it's so much more. It's about really living life every day, the question of whether or not anyone has a right to die with dignity at a time of his or her own choosing, the emotional and physical pain of quadriplegia and how a relationship that lacks the usual physical comforts can be much deeper and more intimate than the norm. Me Before You is a powerful story that brings up a lot of questions and would make an excellent discussion book (although, perhaps, one that could potentially lead to a bit of a shouting match between those with differing opinions).
Highly recommended to those who love a meaningful story of love, life and loss. Miserably, compulsively readable, with exceptional dialogue and character development and not a single wasted word in its 481 pages (in my humble opinion). (Nancy, of Bookfoolery)
Multiple reader productions are usually a hit with me. In Calling Me Home, two stellar narrators team up to deliver an audio performance that is sheer perfection. I enjoyed Bahni Turpin in both The Help and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, but Lorna Raver, a popular reader whose name I instantly recognized, was a new narrator for me. I have since added several of her other credits to my audio wish list.
It’s funny how sometimes you find a friend— in the likely places—and almost immediately, you can talk about anything. But more often than not, after the initial blush, you find you really have nothing in common. With others, you believe you’ll never be more than acquaintances. You’re so different, after all. But then this thing surprises you, sticking longer than you ever predicted, and you begin to rely on it, and that relationship whittles down your walls, little by little, until you realize you know that one person better than almost anyone. You’re really and truly friends.