Thursday, September 27, 2007

After the Leaves Fall

Baart, Nicole. 2007. After the Leaves Fall.

Waiting is a complicated longing. I lost my father when I was fifteen, and I've been waiting ever since. He was buried on a rainy day in October, and I remember the sound of the raindrops on the lid of the sleek black casket and how it seemed like music to me. The pastor was doing his best to make sorrowful an occasion that seemed anything but--the leaves on the trees above us were burnt amber, the consoling sky around us was velvety gray, and the rain was singing softly. I didn't feel sad. I felt expectant (1).

Julia Bakker's life is a series of losses, disappointments, and complicated longings. Abandoned by her mother, and raised by her grandmother, she is trying to be anything but the orphan-only-to-be-pitied. Spending most of her time as a loner in high school, she can't help but falling for her best friend, Thomas, though he sees her as nothing but a little sister. Thus opens After the Leaves Fall, while the first three or four chapters cover the "back" story, the heart of this story is about Julia's freshman year in college. Make that her fall semester as a freshman in college. She's away from home. She's independent. She's out to prove to herself and to the world that she has what it takes to make it. But does she? Does she really? School isn't everything she thought it would be. Her roommate isn't the new-best-friend she's always wanted. Her classmates, not her new friends or kindred spirits. And her classes? Overwhelming. The workload, the teacher, the homework, the tests....frustrating, overwhelming, overpowering. She is confused in some ways. She's enjoying some aspects of college life--flirting with her TA, Parker, being one of them. But in other ways she's weary and full of doubts. Doubts about herself, her major, her friendships, her relationships, her place in this world. Though Thomas has been in a long term relationship with someone else for years, Julia can't quite part with the fantasy that one day he'll see her for the first time as a woman, as a soul mate, as the woman of his dreams. It's a season of doubt, longing, and weariness. But it's not without hope. Not without joy. Julia's grandmother is an ever-present. Her constant. Her source of strength and comfort. Can her grandmother introduce her to the Eternal God of Comfort?

I loved this book for many reasons. I love the relationship between granddaughter and grandmother. I love the realistic portrayal of life. Life isn't a thirty minute sitcom. It isn't even a one hour drama. There are no tied-up endings. There are no false resolutions. Life is hard. Life is full of choices. Life is rarely what you expect it to be. You rarely get what what you want. But sometimes you get what you need. There are no easy answers, no easy solutions. Everyone is human. Mistakes happen. Life happens. But beneath it all there is hope. There is beauty. there is a promise of hope.

My interview with Nicole Baart will be posted on October 8th.