Wednesday, July 1, 2009

In place of a book review

Last night I spent two hours talking to our landlord Sylvia. Sylvia is in her 50s and immigrated to Germany from Tetovo (Macedonia) when she was 6. Naturally, we have a lot to talk about.

There have been many untimely deaths in Sylvia's family. Her own father passed away when he was only 34. Her sister's husband died at 48 after battling Hepatitis B for over 6 years, which he got from contaminated tubes at the hospital where he was voluntarily donating blood. A couple of years later, Sylvia's only daughter (only 12-years-old) was hit in a car accident and died.

At the same time, Sylvia is the sunniest, friendliest, warmest, strongest person you would ever meet. She tends to her garden and to those around her with utmost care. She said that when her daughter died, she felt she had to be strong for her nieces. Their Dad had passed away just a couple of years before and now their younger cousin was dead. I needed to show them that life could still be good for them, that it is not all bad, she said. So she continued to work, and garden, and travel, and read, and laugh, and grow the meanest roses in all of Freiburg.

Last night, as I was giving her a hug good-night, all I wanted to say to her was "Read Oscar Wao! Read Oscar Wao!".


  1. Ummm... don't want to give away any spoilers for those who haven't read Oscar Wao yet, but maybe this wasn't the best recommendation for your forlorn friend. The end of Oscar's brief, wondrous life was not too pretty, after all.

  2. [I get the sentiment, though. I was only 1/4 kidding in the previous comment/]

  3. Leigh:
    I know what you mean about the end of the book, but the whole thing ultimately left me feeling hopeful and optimistic... Which, I thought, was the best thing about the novel.