Flawed

I am a fan of Cecelia Ahern. I started with Thanks for the Memories and I have not stopped since. 

Flawed, however, was a total turnaround story wise for her that I had to check if I got the author right. Don’t get me wrong, I also liked this book; but, the light feeling I usually have after reading Ahern’s books is not here in this one.

Flawed follows the life of Celestine North, who was suddenly thrust into the spotlight simply for doing an act that is against the law but is the right thing to do. I don’t do spoilers but suffice to say that the absurdity of the reasoning got stuck with me that I breezed through the book in quite a short time. 

I just could not believe the consequences of Celestine’s simple act of compassion. It poses the question of “are you willing to do the right thing even if it is the hard choice?”. Some would just argue maybe it was not the right thing after all. But then again, thinking about it is different from actually doing it. I know that in every day, there are struggles in making the right call – especially if self preservation surfaces. 

I’ve learned that people aren’t cruel. Most people aren’t anyway, but people are strong on self-preservation. And if something doesn’t directly affect them, they don’t get involved.

Courage and strength – if only someone could have an endless supply of it.

I’ve learned that to be courageous is to feel fear within, every step of the way. Courage does not take over, it fights and struggles through every word you say and every step you take. It’s a battle or a dance as to whether to let it pervade. It takes courage to overcome, but it takes extreme fear to be courageous.

One thing Celestine has going for her though is the amazing support from her family. They stuck with her even with the additional challenges of having a Flawed person at the house – dad, mom, grand dad and even her sister. I honestly do not know how one person can survive a branding without a strong support system, especially with consequences that severe.
To end, I want to highlight this quote from her math teacher:

We see being Flawed as a strength, Celestine. If you make a mistake, you learn from it. If you never make a mistake, you’re never the wiser.

Totally agree. 

This book, however, has a sequel; so, as expected, it ends with a cliffhanger (good thing the Kindle version I bought had ten preview chapters).

I Know This Much is True

I surprised myself with this one since this is not the kind of book I usually read. I even had doubts whether I would finish it. But 30% (I use Kindle) into the book and I decided to push through. 

What I liked about the book is how invested I could get with Dominick.  I read about his past hurts, misfortunes and struggles then journeyed with him in his road to “renovation.”  

Renovate your life, the old myths say, and the universe is yours – Dominick Birdsey

He was not dealt with the best set of circumstances and I felt for him as I read through the book.  I, at times, even had to put down the book since the anger and grief can be overwhelming. In some ways, I shared the same thoughts with Dominick as (a) he tried to go through his grandfather’s story – what was the point of learning about all this pride, self righteousness and arrogance, (b) he tried to deal with his family – schizoprenic twin brother, secret filled family and unknown father, and (c) he tried to navigate his personal life – divorce, death of first born child and career.  

But what are stories if not the mirrors we hold up to our fears?

By the end of it, I was rooting for him to find the strength and support to tie loose ends and just live on, which I was glad that he managed eventually in time. I guess there is something about inner resilience of individuals that can be very inspiring, especially for Dominick who has entertained the thoughts of suicide at one point.

Embedded throughout this book was the anger felt by Dominick and how he was able to eventually able to manage it with the help of professionals (i.e., shrink). He was able to navigate his past and reconcile with his present. This is more ably put by Dr. Patel as:

Life is not a series of isolated ponds and puddles; life is this river you see below, before you. It flows from the past through the present on its way to the future.

But my biggest takeaway is how growing up can lead to a lot of eureka moments, which are actually glaring realities but takes time to sink in. As Ray puts it, “things get clearer when you get older”. Some of my favorite quotes in this book are as follows:

Love grows from the rich loam of forgiveness – Dominick Birdsey

To be human is to be humble. What choice is there, really? Let none of us attempt God’s work. – Father Guglielmo

Would it not be futile for you to make such a command? To assume that the river would ignore its inevitable course and bend to your wishes? You are limited, my friend, in what you can and cannot control, as are we all. If you are to become healthy, you must acknowledge the indeluctability of your brother’s course. Acknowledge your limitations in directing it, Dominick. And that will free you. That will help to make you well. – Dr. Patel

Be humble and forgive. Then, peace of mind follows.

The Bookshop on the Corner

The opening lines of Jenny Colgan’s message to the readers adequately captures what this book was all about:

Because this book is about reading and books, and how these things can change your life, always, I would argue, for the better. It’s also about what it feels like to move and start over (something I’ve done quite a lot in my life), and the effect that where we choose to live has on how we feel; and can falling in love in real life be like falling in love in stories, xxx

This book builds a good case for anyone to try and pick up a book… somewhere out there is a book that would peak and suit your interests – may it be a children story book, a series about cowboys and aliens, an end of the world apocalyptic novel or simply the bestsellers (either fiction or non-fiction).

There was a universe inside every human being every bit as big as the universe outside them. Books were the best way Nina knew—apart from, sometimes, music—to breach the barrier, to connect the internal universe with the external, the words acting merely as a conduit between the two worlds.

If only Nina, the protagonist, can talk to us; finding those books would have been easy. Scattered in the story are anecdotes on how she was able to touch the lives of various characters just by finding the right books.

But the key takeaway for me of the story is how readers actually need to manage real life.

Some people buried their fears in food, she knew, and some in booze, and some in planning elaborate engagements and weddings and other life events that took up every spare moment of their time in case unpleasant thoughts intruded. But for Nina, whenever reality, or the grimmer side of reality, threatened to invade, she always turned to a book. Books had been her solace when she was sad, her friends when she was lonely. They had mended her heart when it was broken, and encouraged her to hope when she was down. Yet much as she disputed the fact, it was time to admit that books were not real life.

As much as we want it to be, books are not real life. 

I am not arguing against reading books.  I could personally attest on its value in helping me cope with whatever struggles I was facing. However, this book reminds us that there is still real life out there to manage and how complicated it will be if we mix our literary journeys with reality.

“It’s not about fricking romantic picnics and moonlit walks and storybook stuff! This is real life.

To end, I really liked this book. It was a refreshing feature of various contrasts – urban versus rural living and reality versus “storybook stuff”.  There were some parts I wish were not included but overall well told. 

Nina got very lucky with her friends, acquaintances that became friends (and lovers), and timing.  A lot of things could have gone wrong but Nina had her happy-ever-after after all. 

Now, back to real life I go.