Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How Are Beach Books Different from Any Other?

Dateline: Holden Beach, NC. Call it the last hurrah of the summer. I'm here on the coast with a group of girlfriends. Husband will arrive tonight with golf clubs. I packed a few clothes and a sack of books. After all, I am in the midst of my sixty-day poetry reading challenge. I'm also going through the Bible in a year--a little Old Testament, a little New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs every day. I'm in the middle of Nehemiah and just started Romans.

Choosing a beach book, however, involves a variety of considerations, some quite pragmatic. For example, I would never take one of my signed first-edition copies to the beach. That would be foolish; however, I did read a hardcover copy of One Thousand Splendid Suns on the beach last summer. I was in the middle of the book and couldn't quit. I just had to be careful: no smearing of suntan lotion.

Some people prefer romance novels or action adventures for the beach: Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel, James Patterson, and such. Since I honestly don't read them any other time, I don't read them at the beach.

On a whim, I brought a book I found after my sister mentioned it. For a dollar plus shipping online, I found a copy of Replay by Ken Grimwood. It's a dogeared copy, the type of paperback found at the drugstore. This one, however, appealed to me. My sister Amy mentioned something about someone who had tried to option the book for a movie. The cover proclaims "Winner of the World Fantasy Award," another tidbit that might usually cause me to avoid the book. The premise, though, is intriguing. In 1988, (a year after the book was originally published) a man dies of a heart attack at 43. He awakens in his college freshman dorm in 1963, fully aware of his prior life. He makes a few changes (and even attempts to prevent the Kennedy assassination), but he again drops dead of a heart attack at 43. The books continues the cycle, with him returning a little later each time.

Somehow the book reminded me of The Time Traveller's Wife, although Grimwood did follow fairly strict chronology. In at least one of Jeff Winston's replays, the world politics involving the Middle East are fairly prophetic. The overall theme, if there is one, indicates that one can make small changes within his or her life, but rarely can we alter the grand scheme of things.

I'm usually a slow reader, pausing to underline phrases or to make notes. This was not literary enough to warrant close examination of the text. It was, rather, a perfect beach book: unputdownable. Unfortunately, I finished it the day I started and must now decide what to read next. Fortunately, like a good scout, I'm prepared!


Cerrillos Sandy said...

Cuz! How could you ever call yourself a slow reader? You read more books than anyone else I know. As always, I loved your post!!


Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Hi Nancy, I have your blog finally on my ncpoetlaureate.blogspot. Thanks for all the good posts! K.