Yesterday I opened my Twitter feed to find an encouraging post from my friend Donalyn about the phenomenon of the “Reading Slump.” I couldn’t believe that she was feeling exactly the same thing I’ve been feeling.
You see, I thought I was the only one.
Lately I’ve felt listless about reading. I’ve had the reading doldrums, I suppose. I’m still reading a lot, but I’m enjoying it less. I’ve started multiple books and finished very few. I’m tired of the formulas and the lack of originality. I’m annoyed at mediocre writing and predictable plot lines.
I have been, in short, exercising my right to quit reading a book. Or books. Or many books.
This feeling has made me restless. This is hard to explain, but reading a good book makes me feel grounded, settled, satisfied. When I don’t have this grounding, I flit from Youtube to Netflix to Pinterest to Twitter, filling my time but feeling dissatisfied. Social media has a purpose, but when I spend too much time on it, I just feel like I’m overwhelmed with the concerns of the moment. I have always needed books to anchor me in what is most true and real in life.
I finally found a new book like this.
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
This book had me from page one.
Josie Moraine wants to get out of New Orleans. Away from her mother, who is a prostitute and would prefer if Josie didn’t exist. Away from the stares that come with having such a mother. She wants to go to college in Massachusetts.
But she ends up in the middle of a murder investigation.
I spent a large portion of this weekend finishing this book. It was luxurious and satisfying. It was even, I dare say, more interesting than anything on the Internet. I cared about Josie and wanted her to escape New Orleans. I cared about all the supporting characters, her best friends, an unexpected band of ragtag heroes: a New Orleans madam, a biracial cab driver, a motorcycle-driving, leather-jacket wearing mechanic. These characters are deep and involving; they aren’t just there to further the plot but all have their own motivations. The richness of their interactions fills the landscape of this story.
This kind of book exemplifies one mark of a good book for me—when I don’t really want to read it quickly. When I can relish the sentences and not just try to find out what happens next.
What I love about Josie, the main character, is that she overcomes. Of course we all love an overcomer, but what I love about Josie is that she overcomes not just her external circumstances but her internal conflict those circumstances have produced in her. She struggles not to act in ways that reflect her mother’s character, and sometimes that very struggle produces less than ideal decision making. Her decisions aren’t always healthy, but they are realistic for someone who has been abused and neglected and is trying so hard to make sure no one sees her that way.
This is actually Ruta Sepetys’ second book. I also picked up a copy of her earlier novel Between Shades of Gray, a story about the Russian invasion of Lithuania in 1939, a couple of years ago. I have been meaning to read this for a while, but for whatever reason I’ve procrastinated. I plan to start this one next.
“It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It’s a great way to keep track of what you’re reading and see what others are reading each week.