When stories end

“Perhaps,” the girl said. “There is always a moment when stories end, a moment when everything is blue and black and silent, and the teller does not want to believe it’s over, and the listener does not, and so they both hold their breath and hope fervently as pilgrims that it is not over, that there are more tales to come … But no breath can be held forever, and all tales end. … Even mine.” [The Orphan’s Tale: In the Cities of Coin and Spice, by Catherynne M. Valente]

I missed midnight on New year’s Eve by about 6 minutes because I was too engrossed in finishing a book and then by being in awe of it. For the past year or so, I’m been on and off (mostly off) reading Catherynne M. Valente’s “The Orphan’s Tale: In the Cities of Coin and Spice.” It’s one of those books that can feel a bit overwhelming for a slow reader like myself and can sometimes require browsing back through previous chapters if you’ve been away from it for too long (which happened often). But, it was worth it.

The second of two Orphan’s Tales book, this one continues where the first left off, weaving story, within story, within story. This is why it can be hard to keep track of – the layers ebb and flow, some deeper then others. I devoured the first book, but got distracted with life and everything late last year, and put it down for an extended period. After that, it felt overwhelming to get back into it (as much as I love to read, I get easily overwhelmed by long books). I was tempted to find chapter-by-chapter synopsis, but worried that I would just keep reading them and ruin the rest of the book for myself. A few weeks ago, I decided that I just had to suck it up and finish reading it. I was rough going as I tried to remember the various stories and even rougher as they all came to a conclusion at the end (I barely remembered some details, which I think would have ruined the reading experience if I hadn’t already made the mental promise to not stress out about details).

The characters are all beautiful, flawed, desperate, and hopeful, and they were crafted by an author who is clearly teeming with beautiful imagination. I first discovered her when I was randomly introduced to her novel “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.” It’s a “kid’s” book, but I didn’t care (I read a lot of YA) and I feel in love. So, I read “The Orphan’s Tales: In The Night Garden“, as mentioned above, and promptly bought as many of her books as I could find in the Kobo store (which , sadly, have all landed in my neglected pile of digital books I keep saying I’m going to read, which is just as big as my neglected pile of paper books I keep saying I’m going to read).

The above quote is how I am with books I’ve fallen in love with. I wish so hard that there was more, even when I know that the end was perfect as it was and know that, later, I will be glad to be able to wonder, or wander, as the case may be, with my own imagination into the stories that followed. This books always leave me with a sense of loose that can only be squashed with a new book or a long lament/goodbye to the book (like I’m writing right now). These are the books that make me grateful for having parents who were readers and who encouraged me, even when I wasn’t terribly interested in reading (it took me a while to find the right books for me – I still credit a Margaret Atwood book I read at 16 as being a major turning point for me … if only I could remember exactly which book it was!).

Her story was only beginning, as it happens. This was only the end of a long and sad chapter. But, it ended for me, the reader, and now I need to move on to another book.

Maybe this year, unlike 2013, I will put a little more effort into reading some of my many unread books and track what I’ve read. I did both for about 2-3 years (2010-2012-ish). I don’t read quickly, so I don’t read a lot, but I regret not keeping track of everything I read in 2013 (my list is short and ends with “… various others”).

Note: Since finishing the novel, I’ve discovered that there is a wiki devoted to the series.  

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