Hey, guys, I actually wrote this back on Sunday, when I finished the book, but I was in the middle of the DMaM series, so I didn’t post it until now. Unfortunately, everyone was busy with the Superbowl that day, and that part of my DMaM had no comments. Sad because it was my favorite part 😦 Anyway, here’s what I thought about Love is the Higher Law:
I just finished Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan, but this post is sort of a review of it and of myself. I must say, it’s a beautiful book. I just got a Kindle to read more easily at the gym when I go during lunch, and this was the first book I bought for it. But I found I couldn’t read it at the gym. The reason? I kept almost crying, and that’s not really the best condition to be in when you’re exercising. Then to make things worse, I’d be at work after lunch thinking about the book and get all teary again. Even though I had only planned to use the Kindle at the gym, I ended up reading LitHL at home before bed, which seemed to be the best time.
The book is about three people dealing with the events of September 11th. I’ve never read a novel dealing with the event, except for one I beta read that dealt with it indirectly while setting it at another citywide crisis. The three main characters are Jasper, who deals with 9/11 by retreating from people, Peter, who relates to it and other people through music, and Claire, who deals with it by trying to make it about people coming together and being better. Peter and Jasper had planned a date for 9/11, which obviously was postponed. The story follows the arc of their relationship, or lack thereof, and how knowing Claire ends up connecting them.
Part of the reason I think the book was so emotional for me wasn’t so much 9/11–I don’t live in NYC, and I don’t think many of us can understand what it would be like to be there like someone who lived there could (reading this book is the closest I could probably get to feeling what they felt)–it was that the characters felt like they were three parts of me. I can totally see me trying to avoid everyone and stay at home after the event like Jasper did. I sometimes do that when I get depressed or overwhelmed by the real world. I know I’d have the same reaction to music that Peter did. First I’d have to avoid certain songs because they could be associated with the tragedy, and then I would use the music for just that purpose, connecting to the lyrics in a new way because I understand them differently. I do this all the time for novels and real life situations. Thanks to this book, I probably can’t listen to U2’s “One” the same way. The one character who was probably the least like me was Claire, even though I have kind of a dreamy optimism at times. But it was Claire who really made me cry (though, I’m not going to lie, Jasper and Peter’s awkward date broke my heart quite a lot).
There’s a scene in the book where Claire comes across a woman who is trying to relight memorial candles in the rain. Claire takes one of the candles and starts relighting other candles with it. It’s a futile exercise because the rain puts them out pretty quickly, but she and this woman, plus others who join them, are doing something. They’re connecting to the moment, they’ve found a small purpose in the emptiness, they’re relating to each other and the people who have died. It’s beautiful imagery in a beautiful scene. It breaks my heart just to think of it.
And I think about wanting to do something. Wanting to make a difference. Wanting to contribute when there’s no other way to do so.
That part I can understand. My own attempts to do something, make a difference, and contribute aren’t as heartbreaking as Claire’s. But isn’t this a part of why we write? So we can have something lasting that we contribute to the world? It doesn’t have to be a groundbreaking novel. Lighting a candle isn’t groundbreaking either. And every step towards getting there–every query sent, full request, offer, or (I imagine) submission to publisher and book deal–every step is a new candle lit. Every rejection, another candle going out.
That said, maybe it’s not fair to compare the road to publishing to lighting 9/11 memorial candles in the rain. But as I thought about that scene today, for about the hundredth time since reading it last Wednesday, I had this overwhelming sense of what Claire wanted there. And it’s backed up by the rest of the book, as she tries to connect to the whole world over this one event. She wants it to mean something.
So even though, of the three characters, I’m least likely to react to something like 9/11 like Claire, I still understand her. And she is the one who left the greatest impression on me in this book.
But I don’t see me forgetting Jasper and Peter any time soon either.
Lots of love,