“The things we love when we’re twenty, we replace them with things that weigh more, that require care and feeding: the things we are obliged to love.”
As I read books, I tab examples of beautiful writing so I can include them in my review. Lauren Fox’s third novel, Days of Awe, has so many tabs I can’t possibly cite them all. What I can include in its entirety is my love for this book and these characters: protagonist Isabel Moore and those who orbit around her, including her (ex-) husband Chris, (dead) best friend Josie, mother Helene, and daughter Hannah. Through Izzy’s eyes we travel back and forth in time as she reveals pivotal moments of her life. She’s a mess, really, but we love her anyway. She is in mourning, after all, losing both her best friend and her husband in the span of a year.
Josie was a force of nature, we come to know, brash and reckless in both her personal and professional life. She inspires something in Izzy: at first excitement, and then disappointment. At the time of Josie’s death—by single-car accident—the friendship was stretched, something Fox explores through flashbacks. The death has also created a rift in Izzy’s relationship with Mark, her childhood friend and Josie’s husband, adding yet another loss to the main character’s life.
Helene and Hannah are spitfires, the former a Jewish German immigrant with a will of steel, the latter a saucy, sassy pre-teen struggling with her parents’ separation and her burgeoning need for independence. At times, you’ll be amazed that Izzy’s a mother: Her own life is in shambles; how can she possibly guide someone else’s? But she is, and she does her best, even in her often directionless mourning. Despite the split, Chris is also an extremely likeable and sympathetic character; you’ll root for his happiness, too, even though Izzy isn’t ready for him to move on.
And then there’s the language: beautiful, vital, illuminating, and awe-inspiring. Of Mark at Josie’s funeral, Izzy observes: “Watching him, I understood that our pain separates us—that something as monumental as sorrow ought to make us porous, but it petrifies us instead. I understood that, and then, like a goldfish, I forgot it.”
Of meeting Josie, who approached Izzy and became her friend: “That’s the way it is with certain people. They set their sights on you. They look at you straight on and they choose you, and they are dazzled by their own brilliant choice.”
Of our changing priorities as we age: “The things we love when we’re twenty, we replace them with things that weigh more, that require care and feeding: the things we are obliged to love.” And also: “I glanced at one of the bouncy houses, all the flailing little arms and legs—a huge, multilimbed dragon, trapped in a puffy castle—and wondered if you could mark the exact moment in your life when jumping around on bright inflated plastic stopped being enough.”
And, finally, of the imminent separation from Chris: “There is a peculiar kind of terror you feel when the person you are closest to—for better or worse—begins to formulate the idea of a life without you.” Hits hard, doesn’t it? We’ve all been there, and yes, it sucks.
Truly, I cannot say enough good things about this book. If you’re a fan of poetic, reflective, character-drive fiction, this is a must-read. | Laura Hamlett