There's something disturbingly familiar (that's how I feel, anyway) about the themes in this book. It's about a young married couple, April and Frank Wheeler, who - despite their once passionate determination to travel and act and live life outside of the norm - somehow find themselves raising two children in suburbia. Frank works in the city, and April stays at home with the kids. They feel out of place in a pretty, perfect-lawn-and-garden world in which everyone else seems comfortable and content.
The novel is set in the 1950s. To be honest, I thought the author had written it only in the last few years. I was surprised to discover it was first published in the 1960s. The themes seem modern. Some issues span decades, I guess.
Frank and April's story brings up some questions that I think a lot of us ask ourselves, though perhaps we don't share them with the people around us:
Do we choose the nature of our lives for ourselves, or do circumstances and expectation channel us into them?
How many adults, despite appearances, feel uncomfortable with the status quo of their lives? How many adults make an effort to change that?
Is it selfish to try to buck societal norms?
Is bucking societal norms really that difficult - or is that an illusion? Do we create imaginary barriers in our own minds, ones that prevent us from exploring as far and wide as we're actually capable of doing?
Personally, I think a lot of the things that seem impossible really aren't. We're just entrenched in our current situations and bound by a mountain of debt, stuff, complacency, and/or other people's expectations. That doesn't mean we can't pull ourself out of the trench or overcome the mountain; it'll just require some work. For instance, the idea of buying a boat, living on it, and seeing part of the world that way seems kind of far-fetched from where I'm sitting right now, but really, what will it take? Money (definitely a big obstacle, but not an insurmountable one if we plan ahead), research, patience, a willingness to learn, and time - and that's about all. That's why I'm so convinced we can make it happen.
Anyway, that's what I'm doing/thinking about on my summer vacation.
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On a somewhat unrelated note, I've decided to have a giveaway - first because I think it'll be fun, and second because I'd like to have a better idea of who's reading this blog. Nothing fancy, but I'm giving away two new WRAP-N-MATS wraps. My sister-in-law purchased one for my son last year, and it's perfect for wrapping up sandwiches. It encourages both frugality and "green living."
To enter, just reply to this post, include your name and e-mail address in the comment boxes, and answer the following question:
What book would you recommend others read this summer?
The giveaway ends on Tuesday, July 7 at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. I'll choose the winners at random and announce them on Wednesday morning. You must have an address in the U.S. in order to enter.