This is the title of the last chapter of Grand Illusion. I loved writing the last few chapters because I got the chance to use a different kind of prose. It felt very similar to writing the end of Middle of Nothing. Look, when it all comes down to the final parts of our story - the human condition is all about that most cliched sentiment of all; love. And I like writing about this concept from unique vantage points. Wat to know what any of my books are about? They're about love. But this is not Nicholas Sparks formulaic love stories. And it is not about chick flick rom-com stuff, it is about the reality that human beings fall in love.
How we get there, however, is what makes each story unique. And that is what I have tried to craft. With that, this final chapter has a really good segment that I really love. The two primary characters, in the universe in which the protagonist makes a bold decision and moves to Portland, meet at Powells City of Books and share this little portion of conversation:
‘That’s a brilliant book. One of the best of a generation.’ She spoke as if she hadn’t a care on the world, and maybe she really did not. She had perfectly silky shoulder length hair. It wasn’t brown, but not black, somewhere in between. He stopped and turned to look at her standing to his right. Her smile seemed to beam like high beams on a semi-truck. It was really the combination of her eyes, and that perfected smile, despite its imperfectly balanced teeth.
‘You’ve read this?’ A conversation. One not prefaced with his history, not concerned with pain, trauma, history, or fear. Just words. His heart was beating, like all young men’s hearts do when a pretty woman talks to them, he donned a cautious smile. Exuding a jittery fear of something he was not yet aware, he was hardly the confident man he had hoped he could be someday. She liked this about him; he was not fake; no false sense of bravado; no arrogance. Just a man. Talking to a woman.
‘I have. Many times. It is so sad and so telling about the condition of the human soul after the last great war which was supposed to have resolved all of our iniquities. I think you should read it.’ She smiled again as she took the other books from his hand, set them down on the shelf and prodded him with a slight touch to his arm. An arm which immediately filled with goosebumps. ‘But only this. Immerse yourself in the story. Feel the words. Absorb the prose. Laugh and cry with the characters. Fiction is a window into our soul and how we respond to stories is much more telling than what we convince ourselves we want. Our real feelings overpower our designed wishes. Wishes we make not because that is who we are, but because that is what we have somehow convinced ourselves we are supposed to be. Feel their love. Feel their anguish. Learn from them.’
They are talking about the book The Sheltering Sky (one of my personal faves, FYI). I am making her the one that guides him through the world because I hate the cliche that men are the guide. And given that this version of the protagonist is the one who has retrograde amnesia, it seems appropriate for someone to gently guide him. This is the (re)beginning of a great love.