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I was traveling for eighteen days, nearly three weeks during which plenty of lovely things happened. And yet. The story I have told most often since I got back on Monday was about the kid who threw up on my feet right before I got on the plane to fly home. I was wearing flip-flops, had woken up at four am, and was making a haphazard pass at my email when it happened. I actually thought his father had spilled a latte on me, and it was only after I had sprinted to the bathroom to get paper towels for the poor guy (he was stuck with two kids under five while his wife was getting the family breakfast, and it would have been impossible for him to manage to clean things up himself before she got back) that I realized what had actually happened.
It could have been worse, honestly. He could have hit me in the face. As it was, I wiped myself off the best I could and flew for six hours smelling…less than fresh. I didn’t make friends with my seat mates, in case you were wondering. I actually suspect they thought I was hung over and had puked on myself, and for that, they had no sympathy. I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t have either. It also seemed in bad taste to place blame on the real culprit, given that he was maybe three years old and clearly was having a rough time of it.
What does this have to do with Unspoken? Nothing, really. I just wanted to point out that after a trip that included a wedding, an extended family visit, three days on my favorite lake, and moving my best friend from NY to DC (which involved, amongst other things, the climbing of a hundred plus flights of stairs with heavy boxes, followed by five hours in the jump seat of a U-Haul) – after all of the chaos and crazy, I still had the energy to laugh off projectile vomiting. If that’s not the definition of a good trip, I don’t know what is.
Unspoken, fortunately, found itself snuggled right into the most relaxing part of my travels – my long weekend at the lake. For the last two summers, I’ve managed to score an invitation to stay at a lovely little house in upstate New Hampshire with some of my favorite people in the world. It has a deck overlooking the water, and it comes stocked with friends who love to cook, swim, play raucous games of Pictionary, and who, most importantly, understand and approve of curling up quietly with a good book.
I read most of Unspoken while my husband led the more ambitious members of our group in learning the rules of Mahjong. On our first morning there, he had discovered a book detailing the game’s rules, tiles, and etiquette in excruciating detail and was determined to learn. During the one rainy afternoon we had, I laid on the couch reading while they gathered around the table; this peaceful tableau was occasionally interrupted by bellowed phrases like “I’ve got a chicken hand!” and “Red dragon?! No!” They completely ignored my laughter, and instead debated intensely over a quantity of rules and behaviors I couldn’t have hoped to comprehend. It didn’t help that not one of them had even the slightest understanding of Cantonese and consequently had to sort the pieces through a laborious process I would never have had the patience for.
It was in this oddly studious vacation environment that I finished Unspoken only to discover that the sequel wouldn’t be released until the end of September. Although it wasn’t the best book I’d ever read, I’d certainly been swept up in the world Brennan created, and I found her characters so lovable that I was dying to know what happened next. In retrospect, it was probably for the best that I didn’t have the second one. I might have disappeared altogether back into that British hamlet and forgotten to appreciate the story unfolding all around me.
I might have missed out on picking twenty-five pounds of blueberries (too much for seven people – way, way too much), or swimming out to the floating dock, or having my friend translate from Portuguese the hilarious gossip of the Brazilian teens staying next door. Brennan certainly writes some lovely friendships into this YA adventure, but it just can’t compete with real life. Come September, though, when I need an escape from the ramp up of fall? I know exactly where to look for a lightweight escape.
For more about Sarah Rees Brennan, head over here.