Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Romancing the Ordinary by Sarah Ban Breathnach


Romancing the Ordinary by Sarah Ban Breathnach was yet another of my morning reading books.  I originally bought this book because I was bookstore browsing with a friend and she picked it up and looked at it.  A couple of weeks later, I’m with the same friend in a different bookstore and once again she picked up this book so I knew she was more than casually interested in it and that is why I bought her a copy and one for myself.  I thought it could be a shared experience.  Then she moved away.  One day, when I was stuck in bed because of the vertigo, I opened the book and began to read it and nearly fell out of bed because in the introduction Breathnach describes her own experience with vertigo, how debilitating it was for her.  I literally got tears in my eyes and I sent an email to my friend encouraging her to check out the introduction because even then I think I found Breathnach’s words more descriptive than anything I had found to say about the whole thing.  But my friend said she hadn’t brought the book with her in the move. I sent her a link to the introduction because it was available online but now that I am writing this it occurs to me that she never said anything about it so I don’t think she ever got around to reading it.

Then late last year I won a free preview copy (ARC) of the same author’s book Peace and Plenty.  I was already familiar with some of her other books and I knew that she typically organized the content around monthly or daily readings.  Which is why I made three of her books part of my morning reading.  Only, Peace and Plenty did not break down as the other two did and I ended up reading and finishing it months ago.

Which is how I finally got around to reading this book and I have to say that I really like this book.  A lot.  Enough so that I am going to keep it with the intention of rereading it someday in the future.  At the time she wrote this book, Breathnach was not in a relationship.  She was divorced from her husband and learning how to fall in love with her life.  And with herself.  She invites the reader, as the title implies, to truly enjoy the ordinary things in life, focusing on the various sensory input we tend to take too casually.  The texture of a piece of fabric, the way a bite-sized piece of fruit feels on the tongue, the sound of the rain on leaves or how the wind spins the ivy dangling from a tree branch outside a window. 

She quotes from a lot of sources (although she rarely says where one can find these quotes and definitely never gives a page number) while recommending books to read, movies to see, and even recipes to try at home.  All of these are put within the context of her own intimate stories and by the book’s end, a reader could imagine that Breathnach is not merely a writer but a friend.

Breathnach’s target audience is, admittedly, is probably a white-middle class woman although I suppose some admirers will fall outside that narrow definition.  And odds are that those who adore Simple Abundance will be disappointed that her happily ever after ended in divorce.  What’s worse, for those who have read Peace and Plenty even the joy she experiences in buying a cottage she adores and finds inspirational is overcast with a prescient awareness that she will lose this lovely and well-loved home in the future.  I would suspect that most of her adoring readers will even be threatened or at least turned off by the fact that she is more introspective and even melancholy in this book.  She did go through a divorce, after all, and she is living alone; seems to me that introspection and some sadness are to be expected. 

I, for one, find her honesty a lovely complement to her occasional perkiness.  She doesn’t try to pretend she has  it all together and she invites the reader to struggle alongside her as she tries to find ways of learning to love herself.  At the end of the book she points out what any reader would have observed already:  this book is meant to be read more than once.  It stands to reason.  After all, falling in love is the easy part; maintaining a loving relationship is the real challenge.  Above all else, I appreciate Sarah Ban Breathnach’s courage because it takes a lot more courage to write from a place of vulnerability than it does to only share the joy and light of life.  Maybe the next time I read this book, I’ll find someone who will want to share in the reading with me.

Note:  Add this book to the Books I Should Have Read By Now Challenge because I've had it on my bookshelf, have wanted to read it, for over five years, at least.  I'm glad I finally got around to doing so.  

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