Veronika Decides to Die, Paulo Coehlo

I have long had a love affair with Paulo Coehlo’s writing. This very book, in fact, was first recommended to me years ago when I was in college by a high school friend who was living with me in Boston. Both of us were trying to navigate some emotionally charged situations at the time, and this story, based in part on Coehlo’s own experiences in a mental hospital as a young man, was a much-needed ray of sun in our otherwise stormy worlds.

I won’t be spoiling anything if I tell you that this book is the story of a young woman in Slovenia who intentionally overdoses on sleeping pills and wakes up weeks later in a private mental hospital called Villete. The meat of the story comes after her attempted suicide, rather than in the time leading up to it.

Outside the barred window, the sky was thick with stars, and the moon, in its first quarter, was rising behind the mountains. Poets loved the full moon; they wrote thousands of poems about it, but it was the new moon that Veronika loved best because there was still room for it to grow, to expand, to fill the whole of its surface with light before its inevitable decline. (Kindle Loc 767)

Veronika is an ordinary, and in fact, extremely fortunate, twenty-four year old woman in most every respect. She has loving parents, a place to live, a job as a librarian; she herself admits that she is lovely enough that she could have almost any man she chose if she wanted to. Her life is stable, if dull. While she lays waiting for the sleeping pills to take effect, she muses on the fact that it’s best to end her life now, when she is still strong enough to do it. If she didn’t, she would just continue to stumble through life without feeling much of anything.

I think the reason that this book resonates with me as much now as it did a decade ago is that I have made a great study into the unnatural expectations we have for life. I have read about how the most unhappy people are often the most fortunate – those who have time to dwell on the fact that their lives are not what they hoped are the ones most likely to give up when the going gets tough. There is real suffering and need in the world, real disease – both physical and mental, real financial ruin, real fear…but Veronika suffers from none of that. She has not been abused, or suffered some great tragedy; she isn’t diagnosed with a mental illness or chemical imbalance. She’s just bored.

When I read this book at twenty-two, and again at twenty-five, I felt so close to Veronika. Her experiences, her romantic expectations about life were something I too had lived with. I was also just as anxious to play exactly the part assigned to me, and if I deviated from it, or drew attention to myself, I felt like I had failed.

Mari remembered what she had read in the young girl’s eyes the moment she had come into the refectory: fear. Fear. Veronika might feel insecurity, shyness, shame, constraint, but why fear? That was only justifiable when confronted by a real threat: ferocious animals, armed attackers, earthquakes, but not a group of people gathered in a refectory. But human beings are like that, she thought. We’ve replaced nearly all our emotions with fear. (Kindle loc 1333)

This third reading, though, right from the beginning, I couldn’t help but want to gently poke fun at this girl – so certain of herself, and yet so insecure. She reminded me of one of my five-year old students who told me on the first day of school, “You can’t teach me anything. I already know it all.” I think, very unprofessionally, I laughed in his face.

Because the thing about growing up, I’ve discovered, is that I know fewer and fewer answers every year that goes by, but rather than feel frightened by that, I’m happy to know I still have room to grow. I love life that much more ferociously, even on days when I’m so bored it scares me, than I ever did before.

Look at me; I was beginning to enjoy the sun again, the mountains, even life’s problems, I was beginning to accept that the meaninglessness of life was no one’s fault but mine. I wanted to see the main square in Ljubljana again, to feel hatred and love, despair and tedium—all those simple, foolish things that make up everyday life, but that give pleasure to your existence. If one day I could get out of here, I would allow myself to be crazy. Everyone is indeed crazy, but the craziest are the ones who don’t know they’re crazy; they just keep repeating what others tell them to. (Kindle loc 1160)

I don’t know why we’ve evolved into people who expect that life should constantly bend to our whims, or thrill us, or give us great meaning when throughout human history, the greatest goal was always simply to survive. I’m not above this – in fact, like many people in Gen Y, I’ve spent my entire adult life being defined by these desires. It’s been an uphill battle to find myself outside the norm – those “It Gets Better” commercials make me tear up a little every time because although it does certainly get better, it also gets harder. I still worry that other people might think I’m crazy, just not as much as I once did. For many years now, this has been one of my favorite poems on the subject:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
-Jenny Joseph

What I love most about Coehlo though, is that he so cherishes the fragility of our flawed human nature that he makes the worst in us seem necessary to improvement. His most superficial, broken characters give me great hope, and that is something I will always choose to read.

More on Paulo Coehlo can be found at, including a blog and a link to his twitter and facebook feeds.

The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly

Before I talk about The Book of Lost Things, I just want to take a moment to apologize for not posting on Monday. I was fortunate enough to have one of my best friends visiting all of last week, and we were so busy that I only had time to read half of this book while she was here; when Monday came and she had to go back to New York, it was a holiday and I wanted to spend it with my husband. I really appreciate all of you who stop by though – it’s a wonderful mix of dear friends and distant ones, as well as book-loving strangers and internet wanderers – and I hate to disappoint by missing a day. I thought about posting about a book I’d already read, but I was so deeply embroiled in this story that I didn’t have the desire to read another. (Also, to be completely honest, we started watching Downton Abbey last week and are now only one episode away from the end of season 2 – if any show has a thick nest of story to it, it’s that one!)

I started reading The Book of Lost Things at Starbucks last Wednesday while my friend was meeting with a west coast client. I had stumbled upon a recommendation for it on Amazon (it turns out that if you buy enough books in one place, the internet starts to use its fancy algorithms to uncover what you like) and it seemed liked a good choice for a cold, blustery day (there’s something about British and Irish writers, I believe, that resonates with strange, off-season weather).

I was hooked immediately. This is a YA book, at least in my opinion, even though David, the protagonist, is only twelve (certainly young for the genre). I probably got almost half way through this book while I was waiting for her, its action just pulling me along while the people at the tables closest to me did their best to distract by talking absurdly loudly about the economy and constantly scraping their chairs on the floors.

It wasn’t until that night, when I woke up in a sweat, that I realized how deeply disturbing the book really was. In the bright light of day (and I chose to finish it in the bright light of day, I assure you), it seemed like a relatively harmless fairytale – a quest for an angry, grieving boy that leads him into a nightmare world just a slip away from his own. But I’m a grown-up. I know that Loup (half-men/half-wolves) don’t exist. I know it’s not possible to sew the heads of children to the bodies of animals (at least not and keep them alive). I know that the horrors of David’s world are the fears incarnate of a child struggling to overcome the loss of his mother and the displacement within his family by a stepmother and new baby brother.

And yet, the brutality of the world David stumbles into, blinded by jealousy of his young, needy brother and furious at his father for letting go of his mother too quickly, is sickening. That he finds strength to stand against such horrors with grace and dignity and wit are remarkable, but for me, I feel soiled by such a place existing even in the imagination. Connolly is an exceptional writer, compelling and supremely gifted at creating truly shocking levels of depravity. This may stem from the fact that this is his first non-mystery/crime/thriller novel, so the bulk of his experience is in exploring the ideas of salvation and morality in context to acts of human brutality.

Although I couldn’t find anything to indicate that John Connolly might write more books in this vein (he is still actively publishing a series of crime novels, the latest of which came out last year), he has a real gift for capturing genuine emotion within a fantasy scenario. This book would have scared the bejesus out of me at twelve, but I can imagine it appealing to a huge audience at any age if only because he unflinchingly looks into the most twisted parts of the human psyche without giving up hope.

More information about John Connolly can be found at (sidenote: while looking for more info about The Book of Lost Things, I discovered that Connolly won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel and the Shamus Award for Best Private Eye Novel – if anyone has read Every Dead Thing and can recommend it, I’d be happy to hear about it. I read crime novels only occasionally, and only if someone can give me a strong reason to, but I have to admit, he’s so talented, I’m curious…)

Enchanted Glass, Diana Wynne Jones

I have to admit straight off the bat, this is not one of my all-time favorite books. In fact, I was iffy about even posting about it here, but I love Diana Wynne Jones so much that it was making me sad not to give credit where credit’s due. She was a fantastic writer, and Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the most wonderful MG fantasy novels I’ve read, so every once in a while, I grab another one of her books to see how it compares.

20120213-153332.jpgI can’t remember exactly where the recommendation for this book came from, but I’m not alone among Wynne Jones fans in finding her books to be a mixed bag. This particular story had wonderful characters – a young absent-minded professor who adopts a boy with a mysterious past, a child who can change from dog to boy and back again, a sassy secretary who also trains horses, and a feuding housekeeper and gardener who keep everyone else on their toes – each of whom is lovingly developed and integral to the story.

Unfortunately, the story itself is a little thin. One of Wynne Jones’ strong suits is creating a life for her characters and then putting it into motion. The action in her books stems from those routines, and she has created some great novels using this rather unusual technique. The Enchanted Glass, however, was big on establishing and maintaining the relationships between the characters, and between the characters and the setting, but lacked the suspense necessary to make the climax as believable as I had hoped for.

I think the reason the book has stayed with me for a few weeks regardless of its flaws is that in my long-form writing, I often (okay, always) run into the same challenge. I fall so in love with the characters that I start moving them from one little scene to the next without taking the big picture into consideration. Of course, the problem there is that nobody else really wants to read a love letter from author to characters! Readers, especially readers of MG or YA fantasy expect (or at least hope for) movement, and motivation for that movement, at least a few bated breath moments, and most certainly some action leading up to the vanquishing of whoever needs to be vanquished. Without those elements, a reader, and especially a young reader, will rightly lose interest in the story being told.

Recently, I was talking to a friend who teaches elementary grade English, and she was talking about how a part of reading comprehension is being able to predict what will happen in a story based on the title, chapter headings, pictures, covers, and already completed text. I hadn’t thought about it in quite those terms before, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Enchanted Glass fails to provide key details to encourage the reader to project or question the direction of the story. As always, I loved entering the world she created for me, I just wished there was more happening in the quiet British countryside, if not for me, then for the children who will hopefully enjoy her writing for many years to come.

So Long, See You Tomorrow, William Maxwell

Two weeks ago, I realized that even though I have a stack of books I still “need” to read, I wasn’t feeling drawn to them (poor neglected books – most of them have been sitting on the shelf for at least a year, and I know of at least two that are pushing the decade mark). I put a call out for suggestions on Google+, and a friend of my husband’s from college (who, based on her amazing taste in books and sense of humor, has become someone I consider my friend too, although we’ve only met once, briefly, in person) came to my aid.

She provided me with a list of about twelve books she thought I would like after perusing my taste on and categorized them as “Great,” “Very Good,” or “Good and Fun.” This is a perfect breakdown from my perspective. “Great” and “Very Good” books, like The Night Circus and So Long, See You Tomorrow tend to be serious, though undeniably compelling reads. These are books I might have passed over before starting this project because I have a thing about getting too depressed from my sources of entertainment (weird personal pet peeve), but now that I have to read so many books every week, I have room in my literary diet for all sorts of things!

The “Good and Fun” category, some of which I had already read and enjoyed tends to be my go-to – I love to laugh, and I especially enjoy characters who are witty, secretly sweet and outwardly foolish. I’ve been encouraging myself to save the books in this group for the moment since, as it turns out, I’m actually quote enjoying a more serious turn (must be a winter thing).

I was especially surprised by how much I liked So Long, See You Tomorrow. I knew going into it that this was not a happy book, and yet somehow I was drawn to this little excerpt from its description on Amazon: Out of memory and imagination, the surmises of children and the destructive passions of their parents, Maxwell creates a luminous American classic of youth and loss. 

I was curious about a “new” classic, something maybe in the vein of Where the Red Fern Grows. It turns out that this reminded me more of Ethan Frome, with the same inevitable spiral o’doom, written with a deft hand for story-telling. Now, I as far as I know, I’m the only person who read Ethan Frome in high school and liked it better than The Catcher in the Rye, but then again, I’ve always been more than a little odd. Anyway, Maxwell is well worth a read, and I’m really looking forward to finding his other books.

He is, I feel, an underrated American author, not because he wasn’t well-known by other authors of his time (he was 91 when he died in 2000 and quite beloved by renowned writers such as John Updike, JD Salinger, and Frank O’Connor both in his time as editor at The New Yorker and as a writer of fiction), but because school curriculums overlook him (and many others) in favor of well-tread material. As someone who loves the classics, I still feel the need to say (over and over) that exposing students to lesser known and new authors alongside tried and true talents can only expand comprehension, as well as the ability to compare how history and style play a major role in literature. Critical thinking, people – it’s where it’s at!

I will leave you with one of my favorite (non-spoiler) moments from the book. I was stopped cold by it because I’ve had this same feeling so many times myself.

I seem to remember that I went to the new house one winter day and saw snow descending through the attic to the upstairs bedrooms. It could also be that I never did any such thing, for I am fairly certain that in a snapshot album I have lost track of there was a picture of the house taken in the circumstances I have just described, and it is possible that I am remembering that rather than an actual experience. (p 27)

The Year of Living Biblically, AJ Jacobs

This has been a strange week for me taste-wise. First, a nonfiction book about athletes, history and biology, and now, more nonfiction, only this time it’s religion?! What’s going on here? Honestly, I’m usually more of a novel girl, but I have to at least mention this book because it took me, no joke, a year to read it. I know – it’s like I planned it! Hilarious, right?! But I didn’t, because to be honest, one of my biggest pet peeves is having a book unfinished while trying to read other books. It just eats away at me like a little reminder of all the other nagging things that are being left undone.

Somehow though, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, turned out to be the perfect book to keep queued up on the Kindle app on my phone. Every chapter is broken down into even briefer sections using the biblical verses Jacobs is considering, and it was breeze to catch up for a few minutes every night while waiting for David to wrap things up at the office, or while I at the doctor’s office, or standing in a long line.

I was actually surprised when I found myself finished a few days ago. I hadn’t been paying close attention to the day markers in the text, and the story doesn’t so much climax as it does end with Jacobs still questioning much of what he has discovered over the last twelve months. He has such a conversational style though that it’s easy to be caught up in his day-to-day trials as he struggles to grasp religion from a scholarly perspective.

As a skeptic with Jewish roots, Jacob begins his year perplexed but strangely fascinated by believers. His decision to try to discover what makes a faithful Jew or Christian by strictly adhering to the laws dictated in the Bible (more of his book is dedicated to his exploration of the Old Testament than the New out of an especial curiosity for his own history) is an interesting approach. He uncovers plenty of fascinating (and incendiary) rules the vast majority of practitioners of either religion won’t be familiar with, and he follows all manner of bizarre leads around the country and even to the Holy Lands to try to uncover the secrets he’s searching for.

Now, my mother is a minister for the UCC. My husband’s mother is an American Baptist minister. I went to church summer camp for nine years, taught Sunday School, and I’m currently writing a book (my fifth) for The Pilgrim Press (the UCC imprint). We go to church, well, not every week (the farmer’s market is only on Sunday mornings and sometimes I need fresh air and locally grown produce more than a sermon), but many. I take great pride in belonging to a community of faith that believes in tolerance, justice, peace, and action. I also take great joy in being well-versed in the traditions of the other major world religions, as well as many of the less major ones. In my faith, I’m a traveler on a path, and the path is wide, and it intersects with more roads than I could ever imagine. I love to discover and braid in elements of other religions into my own ideas about compassion and community. That being said, I was surprised by much of what I read in this book – it’s clear that his researcher nature has uncovered a lot of details that I’ve missed even after years of study.

I find great beauty in the author’s quest to uncover his own spiritual truth. One of his most lasting revelations – the beauty of taking time to say a quick prayer of gratitude many times during every day – especially stuck with me. Through all the rules, all the conflicting advice and controversial ideas that he discovered, the piece of it that seemed worthwhile was not about all of us answering to the same idea of God or searching for the most knowledgable teachers or even having faith at all – it was just a small, human nugget of happiness that evolved from appreciating the bounty of what he already had.

Today, before tasting my lunch of hummus and pita bread, I stand up from my seat at the kitchen table, close my eyes, and say in a hushed tone: “I’d like to thank God for the land that he provided so that this food might be grown.” 

Technically, that’s enough. That fulfills the Bible’s commandment. But while in thanksgiving mode, I decide to spread the gratitude around: “I’d like to thank the farmer who grew the chickpeas for this hummus. And the workers who picked the chickpeas. And the truckers who drove them to the store. And the old Italian lady who sold the hummus to me at Zingone’s deli and told me ‘Lots of love.’ Thank you.”

Now that I type it, it sounds like an overly earnest Oscar speech for best supporting Middle Eastern spread. But saying it feels good. 

Here’s the thing: I’m still having trouble conceptualizing an infinite being, so I’m working on the questionable theory that a large quantity is at least closer to infinity. Hence the overabundance of thank-yous. Sometimes I’ll get on a roll, thanking people for a couple of minutes straight—the people who designed the packaging, and the guys who loaded the cartons onto the conveyor belt. Julie has usually started in on her food by this point.

The prayers are helpful. They remind me that the food didn’t spontaneously generate in my fridge. They make me feel more connected, more grateful, more grounded, more aware of my place in this complicated hummus cycle. They remind me to taste the hummus instead of shoveling it into my maw like it’s a nutrition pill. 

And they remind me that I’m lucky to have food at all. Basically, they help me get outside of my self-obsessed cranium. (pg 95-96)

AJ Jacobs can be found at

Born to Run, Christopher McDougall

After finishing The Night Circus last week, I realized I was pretty well screwed. You can’t just read a book like that and expect to jump right into something else without a harsh comparison ruining the second one for you…or at least that’s what I’ve found; usually the book I try to read after an incredible story leaves me feeling bored and antsy.

On top of that, I came down with a nasty cold Thursday night that lasted well into Sunday. So there I was on Friday night, missing a poker party, missing the Circus, missing my husband (who was at the poker party), missing the ability to breathe through my nose – basically a grumpy, sore-throated mess – and a cover from my pile of “I swear I have the best intentions of getting to you” books caught my eye, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. The magic of The Night Circus, flowing in and out of a world of dreams as it does, was the perfect segue into this book, a story of a gentle, hidden tribe of people living in a place on earth very nearly as dream-like as fiction.

Two years ago on a drive across the country, David and I had heard McDougall interviewed about his book on NPR, and as a newbie runner, just weeks into the Couch to 5k, I was fascinated. He was talking about barefoot running, ultra-marathons, and a tribe in Mexico called the  Tarahumara, as well as concepts in running I couldn’t imagine performing myself but which I desperately strived for.

You see, I love to run. I’ve always wanted to be a runner, but I come from a family that loves, well, books. I was a terribly uncoordinated kid, and I didn’t like competitive sports. I always felt awkward and embarrassed in gym class. I was chubby, slow, and completely clueless about what true athleticism was. I would watch the Boston Marathon in college, calling in sick to work and skipping class to see how both the men and women’s races unfold. I was obsessed, always looking in at a world I wanted to belong to but never could.

In 2009 though, I quit my job teaching preschool to write full-time and decided to try a whole new life on for size. I started doing yoga (I am hilariously inflexible, but even I have found that practice makes…well, not perfect, but improvement) and I took on the C to 5K challenge. All the runners I knew were strong, lean, and long-legged. They never seemed to sweat. They looked effortless as they flew past me down the trails. I, on the other hand, sweat just thinking about running; my entire head gets flushed bright red after about five minutes, and I’m slow. The only thing I’ve got going for me is a natural mid-foot stride, a product, I assume, of the fact that I almost never wear shoes and consequently have strong, flexible feet. That, and, well, I absolutely stupid love it.

I don’t run because my doctor tells me to, or because I’m good at it. In fact, after a year and a half, I still average a 12 minute mile on my good days – a pace that has been referred to as “glacial,” “laughable,” and “pointless” on varying occasions. The thing is, I can run four and half miles at that glacial pace without my heart rate going over 160bpm and without stopping, and that makes me a runner, no matter what anyone else says. So when I picked up Born to Run, a book that’s been on my shelf since Christmas and on my mind for two years before that, I didn’t appreciate that I would be seeing on the page what has long been printed on my soul – that we are a running people and that we are ALL born to run.

When I was very young, I read Anne of Green Gables and was first introduced to the idea of a “kindred spirit,” of a person who could think and feel as I do. I’ve met several such people in my life, but I’d never found one who felt about running the way I do – that it’s not a job, not a way to lose weight or to compete, but rather that it’s about this explosive bodily joy that can’t be contained.

The men and women in this book are superb, world-renowned athletes. Even McDougall managed to train in the ways of the Tarahumara tribe and transform himself from an aging middle-of-the-packer with bad knees into the kind of runner who could complete a 50 mile death trail race in one of the most remote locations in the world. It’s all a little mysterious. There’s definitely a liberal sprinkling of magic in his story. But last night, while the rest of the country was watching the Superbowl, I couldn’t tear myself away from this story. I couldn’t stop myself from believing that with enough effort, I could become this kind of runner too – light, effortless, compassionate, and joyful…

Christopher McDougall can be found here:

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

Something about the circus stirs their souls, and they ache for it when it is absent. They seek each other out, these people of such specific like mind. They tell of how they found the circus, how those first few steps were like magic. Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars. They pontificate upon the fluffiness of the popcorn, the sweetness of the chocolate. They spend hours discussing the quality of the light, the heat of the bonfire. They sit over their drinks smiling like children and they relish being surrounded by kindred spirits, if only for an evening. When they depart, they shake hands and embrace like old friends, even if they have only just met, and as they their separate ways they feel less alone than they had before. (p 143) 

I want to visit the Night Circus. I want it more than I’ve wanted anything for a long time. I want it to be real, like The House on the Rock in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I want to be swept away by something so mysterious and possessing that it can only be called magic.

I’ve always loved magic. My friend’s father is a magician, and I still remember my unabashed delight at the first trick he ever performed for me years ago. We were at the Denver airport getting ready to fly back to Los Angeles, and I was trying to figure out how to ask him to show me some magic without succumbing to outright begging. I don’t remember why he relented, but I do recall standing in the loading zone with the car trunk open and our bags untouched inside. He asked for a quarter and then told me to write whatever I wanted on it. I chose Wyoming, because that was where my future in-laws lived, and I had never been, and it seemed appropriately portentous. He took the coin from me and when he gave it back a moment later, it was bent in half. I could see where I had written my word, and I could feel that the coin was unyieldingly changed. It wasn’t an illusion. He had shifted it from a flat piece of metal into the shape of a C. That’s what I saw, and that’s what I believe.

I have never had the slightest desire to see behind the curtain, to have magic’s greatest secrets revealed to me. I have no problem believing in God, or in the existence of aliens and fairies – why should magic be any less real? Because I can’t see it? Because someone tells me it’s just a trick, a subtle shift and redirection?

To me, magic, and the potential of and for magic is wonderful. It fills me in where the pieces of reality fail to come together. It comforts me on the days when I feel I’m walking through the world just slightly out of step with reality. The Night Circus (the tale) and the Night Circus (the circus) have lured me into an alternate universe where even those without any hint of magic can experience the most exquisite dreams come to life. It’s one of the most breathtaking transformations to me – the shaping of dreams into words on the page.

“It is important,” the man in the grey suit interrupts. “Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that.” He takes another sip of his wine. “There are many kinds of magic, after all.” (p 381)

You can follow Erin Morgenstern at or on Twitter @erinmorgenstern