“It frustrates and fascinates me that we'll never know for sure, that despite the best efforts of historians and scientists and poets, there are some things we'll just never know. What the first song sounded like. How it felt to see the first photograph. Who kissed the first kiss, and if it was any good.”
Every book lover has their book. It is the book with the worn and faded cover, the stains from drops of coffee that they spilled in surprise at the plot's climax, and tattered edges from being carried around with them as their favorite travel companion. The pages are as familiar with their owner’s fingerprints as one is with the voice of an old friend. We all have this book, our long time faithful companion that seems to grow along with us.
My book is Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. Despite my general distaste for Romeo and Juliet stories, and a natural aversion to all things zombie apocalypse, Marion’s poetic philosophy enchanted me as a teenager and has only gotten better with time. When I picked up that little paperback in a bookstore in my hometown, I expected a comedy and a break with the zombie fad that seemed to have permeated every form of media. What I found was a thought provoking and heartfelt exploration of what it means to be human and connect with the world around you. Warm Bodies was with me in the early days of adulthood to remind me of the simple joys of friendship, the damage we cause when when we disengage from our friends and family, and the remarkable healing powers of simple decency.
“I can feel it... the chance to start over, to live right, to love right, to burn up in a fiery cloud and never again be buried in the mud.”
Thankfully Marion didn’t stop with the first book and has expanded this remarkable world with two more additions to his series. Equally dark, hopeful, and full of love and fear, The New Hunger and The Burning World explore the ways in which we lose our faith and the bravery it takes to confront our own demons. As R, Julie, and company search for safety in a ravaged world threatening to open up and swallow them, they must face the past and race toward an uncertain future with little hope of success, but an unrelenting determination.
Now stay with me until the end. This addition to the story is particularly poignant in our current socio-political climate. We live in a time where violence, riots, protests, fear, and anger are common place. Our police departments are becoming more and more militarized, and our political situation is further polarizing the world with every news article. Marion’s characters have seen the worst outcome to all of this and have reached a point where the position they took before the end of the world doesn’t matter. What matters is what they do with the time they have and how they try and keep it together. But now those forces are rising again and suddenly questions that haven’t been asked in years drive them forward to what they hope is a better life. Deeply flawed yet ever sympathetic, our company try to keep themselves from becoming lost in the new wave of uncertainty. They are us. Where we are now. They have our failings and our courage, our weakness and our determination.
“There's no benchmark for how life's 'supposed' to happen. There is no ideal world for you to wait around for. The world is always just what it is now, it's up to you how you respond to it.”
Every relationship that Marion’s characters develop are given their due. The wonderful thing about this is that there is always an inherent sweetness in new love or friendship, and a bitterness as the world works its way in. Each relationship is worked through and (pun intended) fleshed out. We get to see them break and grow and ultimately choose to stick together. You may be wondering at this point why you should attend this event. After all zombies and a “burning world” are fairly bleak subjects for Valentine’s Day. But whether you attend alone, with a partner, or with a friend, you will find a story that is about the very heart of humanity. It’s about us and the ways we find one another, and how when you have found a person that you want to travel through life with you don’t give up on them. You weather the storm together, celebrate the highs and the lows, and always always be unapologetic in your hope for a better tomorrow together.
So come join us on Valentine’s Day in the readings gallery at 7pm for a presentation on a beautiful, wonderful series of books that are so much more than they seem. It has been near and dear to my heart for six years and I can not wait to share it with all of you.
“We smile, because this is how we save the world.”
Hayden hopes everyone will join her in welcoming Isaac Marion to Village Books in Fairhaven on February 14th at 7pm!