Haliburton County Living: Books that Grapple with Big Questions

Amanda’s Adventures in Reading

Amanda Wilk

What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in the immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come –” ~Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Bowler Hat

Atonement2This summer I attended the twelve productions staged at the Stratford Festival. The plays I viewed explored a staggering number of complex topics, and dove into issues including what is justice? (Mary Stuart and The Merchant of Venice), our attitudes towards disability (The Thrill and Tommy), and life’s meaning (or lack thereof) (Waiting for Godot). The number of topics raised in the plays that I viewed inspired me to share a few books that also address and attempt to provide insight into the questions highlighted above.

Justice, goodness, and the idea of doing what is right is a topic that has been extensively explored in literature. Atonement by Ian McEwan is one of my favourite novels exploring such questions from the perspective of Briony Tallis, who at the book’s start is an adolescent girl living in England just before the onset of World War II. Unable to comprehend the motives of her older sister Celia, and Robbie Turner, Celia’s childhood friend, Briony makes a choice with far reaching and devastated consequences.

Relating to our culture’s attitudes on disability as well as questions on the right to live and the right to Me Before Youdie is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. In it, we meet 26 year old Lou Clark who is content live the entirety of her life within the boundaries of the sleepy tourist town where she was born. But Lou’s existence is turned on its head when she loses her job and out of necessity must take a position as an adult caregiver. Expecting her charge to be elderly and incapacitated, she is stunned to instead find herself working for Will Traynor, a brilliant thirty-five year old man, who lost of use of his limbs in a motorcycle accident two years prior. Every day Will is reminded of what he has lost, and his life is filled to capacity with pain, longing, and absence. Lou and Will should have never met, but together form a bond that will change both in ways that neither could have imagined.

The CuriosityFinally, a recent novel exploring the nature of human life is The Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan, which examines the ethical questions that arise when a scientific team uncovers the body of a man frozen in arctic ice, whom they are able to bring back from the dead. Matters are further complicated when one of the lead scientists on the project finds herself falling in love with this man whose new existence is confined to scientific study.

As always, all titles mentioned are available to reserve from the Haliburton County Public Library.

*Originally published in Haliburton County Living on September 19th 2013

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