Graduation — December: Holding Out (for) Hope

I’ve certainly complained my way through Charmed Thirds, but I have to say that I love the ending of this novel (I actually love the novel, when I read it in one sitting).  I love the return of Marcus and, more importantly, the return of Hope.  Emily and I have both discussed how little of a connection we feel to Hope, but here I finally get it.  So much of what’s been wrong with Jessica was that two of the most important people in her life were gone.  No wonder she feels so adrift – she’s really lost without the two people who had been her anchors for most of her adult life.  Yes, she has Bridget and her family, but she doesn’t want them.  She wants Marcus and she wants Hope because they are the people who she feels can really see her and understand her.  She’s not entirely correct, we know, but I understand how she feels.

Part of the difficulty of slowing this novel down and fully examining what’s happening is the difficulty in thinking about what it means to let someone go, even when you want to keep holding onto them, especially when they want to keep holding onto you.  When you breeze through it, you don’t have too much time to worry about whether or not Marcus will come back, whether the postcards are romantic or manipulative, or whether the break in the friendship with Hope is leading to a final and painful friend break-up.  But reading it over a month or more, pausing at each of the breaks, lets you appreciate how much time all of this is taking.  Months and years are happening, not days and weeks, like in the two previous novels.  Holding out hope during a particularly bleak January is one thing; holding out hope for most of your sophomore and junior year – that’s frustrating to read, especially if, as a reader, you know how badly it feels.  When you read this novel in an afternoon, you don’t care that Jess isn’t making serious attachments with the people who are currently in her life because they feel so temporary.  When you read it slowly, you realize that they are all she has for significant amounts of time and phases of life, and you wish she could realize how much she needs to prioritize their presence over someone else’s absence.

This novel feels like a series of burned bridges for Jessica.  She loses friends, she breaks up with boys, she alienates her family, but the graduation brunch proves us wrong.  Maybe she did a better job of holding onto the people in front of her than she gave herself credit for (or than I gave her credit for).  Her college life has expanded and cemented her world in interesting and important ways.  People are brought into her life and back to her life, and, because I love Jessica, it always makes me cry.  Maybe she’ll finally have fun on her road trip.  Maybe she can learn to fully accept and appreciate the thousand quirks that add up to Marcus Flutie.  Maybe she will be nice to her mother. 

Things I would text Emily about if we weren’t writing this blog:

It didn’t fit into what I wanted to say, but Bridget and Percy have the BEST engagement!    And tonight, and for the rest of her life… Dying.

Because I’m the nosiest person, all I want is to be gifted all of someone else’s diaries.  I mean, the diaries of someone I love – perfection – but I’d be obsessed with anyone’s probably.

I went to college very near Virginville, PA, so I can tell you that two towns that are very near it are Blue Balls, PA and Intercourse, PA.  Central Pennsylvania! You’re great.

If you liked that, try thisWhere’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple is one of my favorite novels that I read this past summer.  One of the central questions of the novel is about what happens when creative people stop creating.  Although it’s not directly addressed until Mac brings it up, one of the things that Jessica loses during college is her love of and indulgence in writing for an audience outside of her journal. Also, this novel details Bernadette’s daughter’s quest to find her missing mother, which leads to an arctic adventure with her father, a reunion road trip not unlike Jessica and Hope’s.


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