I just finished I’ll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson. I’m not going to tell you much about it. After all, this isn’t a review. What I will tell you is that I spent much of the last chapter on my knees, reading through red watery eyes. That is, of course, if I could read at all. The rest I spent totally flat face down on my living room carpet leaving discolored circles behind.
I know, I know. But as you are well aware, I am a man who gets down on his knees and weeps from time to time. I cry far more often when things are beautiful than when things are not, and this was no different. It was gorgeous and heartbreaking, joyful and crushing. It was absolutely devastating.
The cover has a quote from the inside, “We were all heading for each other on a collision course, no matter what. Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.” Yes, that’s what kind of book it is. It’s a family who has webs and webs of lies and secrets that have kept them sick for years (like lies and secrets do) and come out in an avalanche of meaning all at once (like they do in books). What will each of them do with these? With overwhelming betrayal? With love and longing and loss and everything else? Well, I’m not telling you, but great art pierces because as these characters answer those questions, we are invited to ask the same ones and to answer, what will we?
What will we do?
You’ve been broken by another you trusted, just as I have. We’ve been in love and had our hearts utterly smashed to pieces, we’ve lost (one of the characters says, “No one tells you how gone gone really is, or how long it lasts,” and you feel that in your bones), we’ve missed, we’ve screamed. And now what? What will we do with those?
So then I also just finished another book I was reading at the same time, a very different book, and it has this: “What if it was less important that anything ever gets fixed than that nothing has to be hidden?” And at first that doesn’t make sense (we all really want it fixed), until we think about guilt and shame and the weight of pretending and in that instant, it does.
I don’t think we need tidy, happy endings. We don’t need overproduced songs and engineered foods crafted in a lab. What we do need is flesh, authenticity, tears, blood, laughter, dirt, skin, sweat. We don’t need more lies or secrets or fake plastic images, we need real, pulsing, dynamic, beautiful life. We need grace and love. And we need them right now.