Don’t forget to breathe

The library summer reading program started on Saturday. I took the kids and we all signed up. Adults need to read 4 books to enter the raffle and there is one held every week.

Challenge. Accepted.

I’m taking a break from heavy non-fiction so I chose one about art. The next fiction book on my list was a graphic novel so that should be a quick read. Those were my planned books. What about the other two that I need for the summer reading challenge? I chose a young adult novel that was on my list. My daughter has turned me on to these and it has further elevated my opinion of her. The young adult genre seems so much better than when I was her age, but then I also did not have the access to books that she has.

I headed over to the adult fiction section of the library to chose the 4th book. I decided not to check my Goodreads list and instead went over to the new release section. I’ve always found this section a bit intimidating because you only have 14 days to read the book and you can’t renew. I can’t recall what attracted me to the book. I only know that I was hooked by the summary. Extra bonus points for a black woman author. Checked it out, headed to the pool with the kids, and started reading.

the wide circumference of love

The Wide Circumference of Love by Marita Golden is breathtaking. I devoured it. It is what I’ve been yearning for in books that I’ve been reading this year. An instant connection with characters who face their lives head on, stumble and find a path forward. My heart stopped on multiple occasions and tears flowed at the beauty and heartbreak of the life and love of this woman and her family.

This is the story of a family facing Alzheimer’s. I have no direct experience with the disease so I cannot judge the accuracy of its portrayal in the book. The author does have passages where Gregory, the husband with Alzheimer’s, is written in the first-person narrative and I found them disorienting. Much like I imagine the disease to be. The voice of Diane, his wife, is where we learn the breadth of what he loses to Alzheimer’s. The author does not shy away from the fullness of the disease and juxtaposes that against the history between them.

Gregory’s journey is inevitable. Diane is the one who has choices and struggles to figure out how to make those choices in a way that respects her, him and their children. Their history leads the way and the conclusion honors their mutual love and growth. It is the foundation of her path forward beyond the final pages of the novel.

Marita Golden has written a beautiful love story. It is also more than a love story. Diane is a dark-skinned black woman at the center of this love story. It is her voice, her experience, her growth to which the reader connects. She is not defined by her husband or her children. She defines who she is and her voice strengthens over the course of the narrative as her decisions become clear to her. It is black and it is feminist and it is the best novel I’ve read so far this year.

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