Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ch-ch-changes

What?!  It has not been over a year since I last posted!  Seriously.  Let this post remind all how very much can change in a year.
1.  My children are all a year older.  In adolescence, a year is a long time.
2.  My beloved mother is  spreading joy safely supervised  in a dementia unit.
3.  My husband was unemployed, and now employed in a job he enjoys.
4.  There was a pony in my pool.
5.  We are experiencing the third snowiest winter on record.
6.  I got a new job.

Okay, so let's focus on #6.  I got a new job.  I loved my former job - K-12 school librarian/HS English teacher.  I was in that school district for 20 years. My children go to school there.  I loved the people I worked with and my students.  I loved buying books with other people's money.  But one day in September, an email came about a job opening for an institution I admired and had always kept in the back of my mind as a home for my retired self.  So, I applied.  And I got an interview. Then, I had a second interview.  I got the job. I am now an ILibrarian (the I stands for Integration) at INFOhio, Ohio's PreK-12 Digital Library.  I work from my home, and travel locally about 5-6 days a month.  I love it.  I miss my students and my friends at my former school, but I do not miss the new Ohio teacher evaluation system, the testing we piled on students, and the frustration of the testing and evaluation system combined.  I do not believe I am alone in saying that this was a small part of the reason why I left teaching after 20 years.

Did I mention I miss buying books?  I am still reviewing, but I feel an emptiness in the results.  I have seriously considered making lists to buy just for fun. I have not done it yet, but I have thought that maybe somewhere, someone needs a book-buying consultant on the side.  That could be me. I haven't visited Net Galley in a while, but I was prompted to do so in search of a sequel to M.D. Water's Archetype which I received through Penguin's First Read's program.  It was such a great read, but more importantly, when I shared it with some of my older student readers, they loved it.  We can't wait for the sequel - I am hoping I can track down an ARC or galley somewhere!

 In my quest for Protoype I found Shirley by Susan Scarf Merrel, a fictional book about a young, married couple's brief stay with the author Shirley Jackson.  I have greatly enjoyed Shirley Jackson's writing.  The Haunting of Hill House is near the top of my scariest-books-ever list.  I taught it to my sophomore English classes, and I love exploring with them the psychological terror and uncertainty that Hill House evokes.  That scene in the bedroom and the walk in the garden....brrrr.  Still gives me the shivers.  Whatever walks in Hill House walks alone, and so does whatever walks in the home of writer Shirley Jackson and her scholarly husband Stanley Edgar Hyman.  The troubled marriage of two larger-than-life characters and their old, creaky, well-lived in home provides the setting for the book.  It takes place a few years before Shirley's sudden death at the age of 48, and is told from the viewpoint of young Rose Nesmer, whose husband Fred has come to be a teaching associate at the college.  Rose can only be 18 or 19 years old, and is incredibly naive, but likable.  She is pregnant, and finds herself attached easily to Shirley's big personality and her unpredictable moods.  Over the course of about 8 months, Rose finds herself both loved and hated by Shirley, but through it all, she remains enamored of the author.

What is most frightening about this book for me is not the underlying question of  Shirley's involvement in the death of a young college girl.  Hyman was good at sleeping with his students, and Shirley's instability is largely hinted to be due to his infidelity.  There is plenty of suspense from this elephant in the book, but it was not this plot line that frightened me.  I was most afraid of how Rose changed while she lived in the Jackson-Hyman house.  She was a young bride whose own mother had left her, and Rose absorbed Shirley's energies, as well as the miasma of the house itself.  For me, the climax of the book was when Rose finally succumbed, much like Eleanor to Hill House, to the ghosts and horrors of her temporary home.  Rose became part of what was bad, ugly and wrong in the house and within two highly intelligent, dramatically charged and fatally entwined people.

The ending was full of irony and wisdom; Rose's transformation in the book is tangible, but not in a decrepit or stale way.  She has grown, as all humans do, through hardship and hurt.  Rose's character is very much a foil to the Ozymandias that was Shirley Jackson, broken and forgotten too soon.(Though really, Shirley's writing has certainly kept her alive!)  Instead of living in a haunted house, Rose moves on, and find where joy abides.  It was a thought-provoking, dark and eerie book.