Tag Archives: Surprise

“We Were Liars”: mind games

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart. What?! If you have read the book, you know. If you have not read the book, according to the jacket cover, “If anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.”

This was another work Book Club book where the students chose it. No one predicted what the outcome would be, but now that I’ve finished reading it, all my questions along the way are finally answered.

liars
Source: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16143347-we-were-liars

Some of my favourite things:
-It included a map and a family tree.
-It included a few twists and turns.
-It was shocking and upsetting.
-It had rewritten Fairy Tales.
-Like any good thriller, it had clues along the way.
-I actually hated some of the characters and was disgusted by their actions.

So, well done E. Lockhart. Even if I wanted to guess and predict what the book was about, there is no way I would have gone where she went. That being said, I can’t wait to get back to work so I can talk with the Book Club about their reactions.

**SPOILER** If you wanted to read the book, stop reading this blog! 🙂

What is it about human nature that has us so fascinated with mystery and the supernatural? I think of myself and my love for the bizarre. Tim Burton movies. The X-Files. Supernatural. The Others. That idea of what happens to us after death is something that at times consumes our thoughts. I know that I believe in ghosts and spirits on earth. I’m not sure I fully understand ghosts or why I believe in them, yet it is just something that intuitively makes sense to me. So, reading We Were Liars poses a great question: are ghosts real or are they things that our minds make up?

ghost
Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/28/most-haunted-canada-place_n_4169116.html

Our minds are capable of a lot, including keeping us safe after traumatic experiences. I like to think that if We Were Liars was a movie it would be a beautiful mix between Fight Club and The Others. In the book, the main character Cadence spends an entire summer with her cousins in a beach house on her Grandfather’s East Coast island. At the end of the summer it is revealed that her cousins are dead and have been dead for two years. So, were the cousins ghosts or creations of her mind trying to protect her from the awful truth?

A group did some research on brains and how they can create ‘ghosts’:
“We show that when there is some damage to the brain or some trick played by a robot, a second representation of our body arises in a way that gets perceived by us but not as our body but as the presence of another human being. Physically this presence is already hidden inside our minds.” How bizarre! Our brains are so fascinating and it is amazing what they can do in order to shield and protect us.

That being said, I still like to believe that the spirit world is close by and that in those special thin spaces we are able to connect more closely with those we have loved and lost. And I know I’m not the only one interested in ghosts, because Canada Post has created a whole series of stamps that pay homage to the most famous ghosts of Canada.

stamps
Source: http://canadianstampnews.com/halloween-also-includes-coins-stamps/

“Dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7)
“Be sad, be sorry-but don’t shoulder it.” (E. Lockhart)

liar
Source: https://www.pinterest.com/butlerpublic/we-were-liars/

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“Coventry”: the unexpected

The unexpected. Unexpected is a word I have been hearing lately. It pretty much sums up some of the things happening in my life right now. Surprised, yet surprised by joy!

unexpected
http://www.thethingswesay.com/i-like-it-when-good-unexpected-things-happen/

I think that marking final assignments and exams turned my brains into mush.  I haven’t been able to engage with a book in over a month, but school is out and my brain is recovering!  During my ‘break’ from reading (well, reading things not written by teenagers) I was trolling around online to find some new books for my summer reading adventure.  I stumbled unexpectedly across Helen Humphrey’s book Coventry.  When I picked it up from the Library, I was glad to see that it was a short novel because it has been the perfect way to jump into my summer reading!

coventry
Source: http://www.hhumphreys.com/Coventry.html

Things happen unexpectedly in life. Meeting a new romance. Losing a job. Finding a new friend. In her novel Coventry, Humphreys takes her readers on a journey by introducing three characters who stumble their way through an evening of the unexpected.

Harriet, Mauve, and Jeremy wander their way around Coventry, UK the night of a heavy Nazi blitz. In a night of horror, terror, pain, disbelief, and shock, all three characters are unexpectedly connected. Mauve and Harriet met briefly on the first double-decker bus in Coventry during WWI and are reunited in a dewy field outside of the city on their way to safety. Harriet and Jeremy are fire-watches together at the Cathedral; Jeremy reminds Harriet of her dead husband and happens to be the son of Mauve. Throughout the novel, all three try to understand the unexpected pain and trauma they are witnessing as the bombs destroy the city and the lives of the people around them.
coventry.1
http://www.bbc.co.uk/coventry/content/image_galleries/ww2_in_pictures_gallery.shtml?9

How does one deal with the unexpected? Whether good news or horrible news, we are never truly ready for life’s surprises, hence why they surprise us. We spend time building order and routines, yet when something comes along that upsets the order, we have a reaction that we feel deep within every part of our selves. One of my favorite sections from the novel describes Mauve’s reaction to be separated from her son and seeing her life crumble before her:
“Nothing that will come after tonight will be her known world. If she and Jeremy survive tonight, there will be the struggle of beginning again. This is heard enough at the best of times, but in the middle of a war it will be almost impossible to bear” (pg 120).

Rebuilding. Recreating. Readjusting. The prefix ‘re-‘ means again, a repetition. With the unexpected comes the need to ‘re-‘ everything. New goals, new plans, new dreams, new routines.
coventry_cathedral_ruins
Source: http://openbuildings.com/buildings/coventry-cathedral-profile-6362

As I think about the unexpected and the reactions we have, I can’t help but think about what N.T. Wright says in his book After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters:
“Virtue . . . is what happens when someone has made a thousand small choices, requiring effort and concentration, to do something which is good and right but which doesn’t ‘come naturally’–and then, on the thousand and first time, when it really matters, they find that they do what’s required ‘automatically,’ as we say. On that thousand and first occasion, it does indeed look as if it ‘just happens’; but reflection tells us that it doesn’t ‘just happen’ as easily as that” (pg 20-21).

If Wright is correct and our every day, seemingly small, choices build up our character, then how we react to a surprise differs for everybody, depending on the choices and reflections they make. In the novel, Jeremy is quick to help others, as it is clear that this is how he lives his life. Mauve is quick to move around restlessly, unable to trust others, which is consistent with her previous behaviours. And Harriet. Harriet painfully wanders, looking for a place to belong.

I am left wondering about the unexpected. Can we prepare for surprises through our every day choices? Do we have to live by that advice to ‘hope for the best, but prepare for the worst’? Perhaps practicing a life of compassion, grace, mercy, patience, and love would help with reacting genuinely to situations. The only thing we can expect is the unexpected. The only way to prepare is to practice the way we want to react. We all played with the Jack-in-the-Box as children and loved the surprise. Maybe instead of dread, we should see surprises as something joyful. Although in Humphrey’s novel there are a lot of horrible surprises, there is some joy: unexpected meetings can lead to new relationships and new opportunities. Life goes on, even after it has been destroyed.

“Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.” (Samuel Johnson)
You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.” (James 4:14-15)
surprise
Source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/314548355194596863/