Personally, I have. I have spent a great deal of my youth out in the mountains in my grandmother's home, in the thick of a forest, isolated from most people and towns. I've lived in that tender environment for months at a time, tending the house, stoking the fire and building it up when it dies down, cooking food on the stove top or above the fireplace. I've weeded the pebbled driveway and tended the garden, picked the harvest and had nothing more or less to do than rise, work, talk, and sleep--all to repeat it again the next coming day. And there's peace that comes with living life like that. That, I feel, is what embodies so much of this book.
Every short story written here is a story about the relationships between various peoples, and it shows through the simplicity and intimacy of a lifestyle that we've almost forgotten today, in this world where connections are expected, and intimacy is taken for granted--if it exists at all. We do not speak--we type. We do not absorb--we skim and summarize. We do not search for meaning--we take facts and leave the rest to the dust. This a book that involves the dusting of shelves, the walking to another's house just to say hello and share in some conversation and a meal. Where things are old-fashioned, but where they hold a delicious intimacy that we're starved for today, even in the simplest of interactions that are portrayed in this book. And not all of these people are friends! And sometimes I sat back in wonder at the fact that two people who did not quite like each other were still able to go places together and hold conversation, even when they disagreed on a point of great importance. It's amazing to see how you didn't have to be soul mates or exact replicas of one another in order to be the closest of companions, even a wonderfully appreciated friend. Just the magnitude of what is conveyed in this series of stories is incredible to me, and while the tales are not brimming with chaos and drama, the everyday is all the more wonderful because it's the everyday, and because it's something that... for the most part... we've forgotten or moved beyond today. It's something that, I'm afraid, we've almost lost.
To this day I look at my best friend and I say to her, "What a shame. When we were younger, and we lived within the same town, we never took advantage of that closeness. We were never together. We never spent time with each other. And now, all these years later, it's barely satisfying enough to spend hours on the phone, to webcam with each other, or to send messages back and forth on our messengers. I wish you lived right next to me! So I could come over whenever I wanted to see you! So that I could just walk right across town and say, 'Can I spend the night with you? I could really use the time away from home right now.' But that's no longer possible. And I wish, I wish we could do that now." I long to be able to do what these women did in these stories. I long for the ability to lead a life that it's all computers and technology, but would allow me to make a home for myself, to read, to do, and to spend time with those nearest to me when I wanted to. I miss the face-to-face of an actual conversation. I miss being able to see, touch, smell, and hear my friends. I miss the intimacy. I miss everything that this book has.
And this is perhaps why this book has become so gentle a weight in my heart, and why it's stirred up such feelings of contentment and softest admiration. It soothes the soul, and rests the mind. Some, perhaps, might find it slow to read because of this. Others may even deem it dull. But perhaps that's only because they've never had a chance to experience what this book contains. And, I'm afraid, many people will react to it in this way because they do not quite comprehend these feelings that stir in those who have experienced this type of lifestyle before. It is a far cry different than life today, that is true. And perhaps that's the problem, even where it's the solution. *Smiles* Nonetheless, it's a book that I feel is worth the reading.
I will say only one other thing before I finish my remarks on this book of short stories. At the beginning, before we ever read the story, there is a part where we get a slight biography about the author, Sarah Orne Jewett. It tells of our author as a woman who was sickly as a child, and who loved her home and community so dearly that she wanted to preserve it in her writings. She lost her father--who she admired greatly--and found solace in the companionship of Annie Fields, who was probably the reason for her focus on female friendships in most of her stories. Seven years before her death, she was in an accident that ended her ability to write, and in the end, this amazing woman who struggled through so much in her life, died of a stroke, only in her 50s. I think the peace and love that she conveys in these stories, that beauty that she's able to show so gently to us as readers, is much of who she is. Her very soul is portrayed in these words, and that's why they can evoke such feelings of depth and warmth in those of us who even understand a smidgeon of what it is she's trying to defend, and what she loves so dearly.
All in all, it was a lovely, serene read. If you're ever in the mood to read nothing too chaotic or dramatic, and want a change of pace, then this might be the book for you to look into. As I said, it's a far cry from what most things are written about today, but it's an endearing book nonetheless, in its own special way. Though I doubt it's for everyone, I think it's something that was worth the read, even if others may not feel the same way. This is the kind of book that some will enjoy, and others won't. So make sure to check it out somewhere else first before you go ahead and buy it. ^_^ Though I really do hope others find this just as enjoyable as I did.