5 Stars Out Of 5
A moving read
April 30, 2016
I've read several books by Cynthia Ruchti and always connect right away with her Wisconsin/Great Lakes settings, but my connections to this story went way beyond the setting. I can count on one hand how many times I've found a really good book with a main character who is facing the issues common to the 55+ crowd. And Ruchti handles these problems in a story that is realistic, at times humorous, at times profound, and often just a step away from a nonstop cry. Lucy, 57, is the victim of RIF (reduction in force); in other words, her music program at a private school system has been eliminated. For Lucy, teaching was not a career; it was a passion that filled her life. Her husband, who has already taken early retirement, sees her job loss as an opportunity to begin again a life together. Lucy feels numb and almost unable to breathe. As the story progresses, Lucy begins to see her new life as the "rest stops" or silences in a piece of music. As she had always told her students those moments of silence are as critical to the whole song as the played notes; now, it is a period of life, seemingly without instruments and singing -- a kind of silence, that Lucy must find meaning in. This is not easy, and Lucy must reach outside herself to find answers.
There was so much I could relate to in this book. First there is the connection to one's career that goes beyond mere job satisfaction. Even though I've been retired five years and I chose my retirement date, I still sometimes feel a type of disconnect. I'm no longer a school librarian and English teacher, and that work defined who I was in part. Am I less because I no longer do that?
Then there is the whole disappointment in her community for letting the elimination of the music program happen. A year or so before I retired, I read about a school in Northern Wisconsin (near where we have a vacation cabin) had made the decision to eliminate their elementary library. They were going to disperse the books among the classrooms and then use the big empty space for a place where kids could do presentations. Excuse me, how often do kids do presentations? A couple times a year, maybe??? A library can be used everyday, all day -- if you staff it!! Now, this wasn't even my school, and it certainly did not threaten my job, but it still felt like a blow to the gut. I wanted to dig out every article about the value of staffed libraries in schools-- the increase in reading schools and other factors in success. I disgress, but let's say from a career stand point, I could empathize with Lucy.
Next was Lucy's relationship with her husband Charlie, a man whom she loves dearly, but whose cheerful presence at the moment is extremely taxing. My hubby and I have been married just 6 weeks shy of 45 years, and when Lucy was biting back sarcastic words, I was chuckling out loud. Any couple who has adjusted to both people being home every day has got to connect with Ruchti's portrayal of Lucy and Charlie. I always tell people that R. and I built a bi-level home as our retirement home on purpose. We each get one floor, and if we need to switch, we can, but we always have space away from each other!! Ruchti has gotten that couple dynamic right on; they love each other deeply, never want to hurt each other, but they definitely approach life differently, even after so many years together.
As I read the book, I found myself stopping to mark passages about marriage, silence, and more. At times it seemed like I was reading a marriage or retirement advice book. but never in a boring way. Lucy and her family's story always took the forefront, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't want to give too much away but I encourage you to find out what HHATT, the name of her new book club means, and what little boy enters Lucy's life and how he and her mom help Lucy find a place and reason to be. I received a copy of this title from Litfuse for my honest review.