For me, the new year almost always comes in with a whimper and not a bang. Over the years, I’ve had frostbitten feet, legendary colds, emergency room visits, friendships fall apart, and of course, the requisite hangovers from nights (and years) I just needed to forget. The holidays that weren’t terrible have mostly been dull, with the exception of a few years, like this one, that were simple – board games, good people, and more food than we could possibly eat. I cherish a New Year’s Eve that allows for quiet conversations and reflection about the past year, and on Tuesday night, I got both. It capped off a remarkably good holiday season, and after taking time to think about the last 365 days, what was probably one of my best years ever.
Judging from the posts and articles I’ve seen across the web in the last week, I feel like I’m sort of on my own in thinking that 2013 was a year for the record books. Aside from the friends I have who are perpetually thankful for their health and families (don’t we all know and love people who are just so earnestly delighted by the world that even a terrible year has a silver lining for them?), I’ve seen a lot of “thank goodness for a fresh start” messages. While I’m grateful that a year that began with a nasty case of the flu and the passing of my grandmother has resolved itself so wonderfully, I just want to say, to those of you desperately looking ahead, I feel you – I’ve been there, and I know exactly how needed January can be some years. I very much hope that, regardless of what 2013 has held, this next year will have exceptional highs for each of us.
One of the most amazing things about reading is that sometimes it’s possible to find just the right book at just the right time totally by chance. Silent Echo was a free novel I picked in November as an Amazon Prime kindle member (excellent perk, by the way). I’d never heard of the author, and all I had to go on was a blurb by the editor. It turned out to be a fabulous book to end my year on.
Rain’s protagonist, Jimmy, is a private eye living on borrowed time. He’s dying from an incurable AIDs-related cancer and has given up working until he’s approached by a high school friend with a case. It turns out to be one he can’t refuse, tied as it is to the unsolved murder of his younger brother. This case catapults Jimmy out of his near-death ennui into an incredible journey that’s part thriller and part examination of the bittersweet relationships that evolve at the end of life. Jimmy is in no way a faultless narrator, but Rain weaves a compelling story right from the start, and by Christmas Eve when I finished the book, I was weeping satisfied tears.
Silent Echo takes its genre to a better place. This murder mystery gave me pause during a season of reflection. Jimmy’s physical struggles and psychological scars made me appreciate the pleasures I often take for granted. Look how I can get off the bed and walk! I can use the bathroom without help, and when I want to see a friend, I don’t have to wonder if they’ll shy away from my touch. I can chew and go to the beach and drive my car. I can do a thousand things every day, and while they seem like nothing to me – washing my hair, buying a cup of coffee, having a conversation – they are, in fact, precious.
I don’t think I can be reminded of that too much, especially during this dark winter month when I need to regroup for the year ahead. I doubt I could appreciate more a novel that manages to tell a great story and nudge me to take stock at the same time.
New year. New chapter. Time to take advantage of what we can do – or at the very least, read a great book.
For more about JR Rain, head over here.