Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Review - A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

Followers of my blog will know that I am a huge fan of Louise Penny. They will also know that I've sort of reviewed this book before. This is my second time through, and I'm not through, I'll likely read it over and over. Superficially, the Chief Inspector Gamache books are about solving murders. Fundamentally, though, they are about ourselves and what goes on in our heads. As Inspector Beauvoir's grandfather once told him:
"You don't want to go into your head alone, mon petit. It's a very scary place."

I don't like to go into my own head alone for the same reason.  I think this is a primary reason for my journey back through these wonderful, soul searching books.  I feel a bit safer going into my head with Louise and her characters as my guides.

The principal theme of this volume seems to be about the junk we carry around from our childhood.  Scripts and interpretations that are skewed by misunderstanding, lies and even abuse.  It is about the crazy things we do to cope with that baggage, even murder.  In a quote regarding one of the victims we get this insight:
"Too much damage done.  We become our beliefs, and Crie believes something horrible about herself.  Has heard it all her life, and now it haunts her, in her own mother's voice.  It's the voice most of us hear in the quiet moments, whispering kindnesses or accusations.  Our mother.
'Or our father' said Gamache,..." 
As Gandhi said:
'Your beliefs become your thoughts
Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your actions
Your actions become your destiny.'
Louise Penny not only points out the problems we suffer as our common lot, but proposes real and credible solutions:
"'Let it go.  You have your own life.  Not Uncle Saul's, not your parents'.'  His face had grown very serious then, his eyes searching.  'You can't live in the past and you certainly can't undo it.  What happened to Uncle Saul has nothing to do with you.  Memories can kill, Yvette.  The past can reach right up and grab you and drag you to a place you shouldn't be......Bury your Dead.'"
But letting go, is not all that easy, it requires that we be willing to go to that most frightening place of all.
"Gamache was speaking so softly no one else could hear.  And he was speaking with open affection.  Beauvoir suddenly remembered the lesson he always hurried to forget.  Gamache was the best of them, the smartest and bravest and strongest because he was willing to go into his own head alone, and open all the doors there, and enter all the dark rooms.  And make friends with what he found..."
And having gone there, Gamache was unafraid to visit other people's heads as well, not so much critically, but empathetically.
"'...Mother...had to go all the way to India to find God and He was here all along.  She went to Kashmir and I went to the door.'
'Both long journeys,' said Gamache.  'And Kaye?'
'Kaye? I don't think she's made that journey and I think it scares her.  I think a lot of things scare Kaye.'
Gamache, or rather Louise is giving me courage to go to that scary place and yes, open all the doors.  I'm not sure about making friends yet, but I'm working on it.  Oh, the power of a truly great book!


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