This book (like the one I wrote about last) features a main character in mourning; I hoping to move to another focus soon.
The narrator is Isabel Moore, a middle school teacher whose best friend Josie died in a car accident. The two women were drawn to each other because they were both funny and offbeat. Isabel gives us many very funny lines of her own, as well as Josie's, over the years they were friends. The tragedy fractured the extended family of Isabel, her daughter Hannah, her husband Chris, and her childhood friend Mark who was Josie's husband. These people who one hoped would support each other seemed to crash around and sometimes make each other feel worse.
Some of my favorite parts of this book are what Isabel says about students:
This was what I loved about being a teacher, back then, when I loved it: that every child was some family's most precious gem, the joy of their hearts, and I could see that, even sometimes when their own parents probably couldn't; I could see that spark of perfection in every kid, in whatever form it took, a devious sense of humor or a disheveled sweetness, and I loved them all for it. They were grubby and loud and chaotic, and occasionally mean-spirited and dim-witted, sometimes feral and once in a while borderline psychotic. But they had beauty in them.
One benefit of the weather [a cold spring] is that our students' spring fever has been kept at bay. Normally, in May, an electrical current runs through them, every one of them, first slow, then fast, one to the next to the next deep through their central nervous systems, and its single message is: Bust out! They begin a communal snuffling and snorting, like wild horses or pigs. One day they're in small groups, scanning an e.e. cummings poem, and the next they're laughing hysterically at a broken pencil, a sudden rain shower, a creaking chair that sounds like a fart.
The depiction of Isabel's mother whose extended family perished in German death camps is wonderful. Her measure of anyone, especially Isabel's boyfriends was "Would he hide us in the attic if needed?" I like this exchange:
"Isabel," Helene says. "Thank you for coming with me today [to a doctor's appointment]. I know you had to give up a personal day." She picks up a magazine from the side table, then puts it down. "Then again, I gave up my youth for you."
"Oh, Mom. Doctors' appointments always make you so sentimental."
The friendship of Isabel and Josie was what made this book so appealing and so tragic.
Lauren Fox, Days of Awe, Knopf, 2015, 272 pages (I read the kindle version). Available at the UVa and public libraries.