A few notes: We'd love to have other bloggers participate in these quests so just contact us (on Twitter (@ our blog name) or email (our blog name @ gmail)) if you'd like to give it a go. And if you can't finish the book you pick out, you can still post on the experience and what it was like having no clue whether it was going to be "good" or not, and cross-post on your own blog, if you'd like to.
Location: King County Library System, Bothell Branch (Bothell, WA)
Conditions: Gloomy, in both outside temperature and mental state.
Expedition Notes: I had just finished participating as a judge in The Cybils, for which I'd read basically nothing but YA sci-fi and fantasy books for over two months. I was (and am) so excited to read a lot of adult stuff to cleanse my palate. I wandered around the audiobook and YA sections to see what was around. I picked up a book for She Made Me Do It, which we're doing with Maja (Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire)and a series book I haven't gotten a chance to read yet (The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde) After that, I was just aimlessly wandering around the library (which was pretty packed with people), taking out things when they looked interesting. After thinking up the Library Quest feature, I wandered with a purpose. I picked up a few different books I'd never heard of and then picked up my final choice, mostly because it didn't look too long and the jacket copy sounded interesting.
Potential Treasure Found:
Publication Date: 11/22/11 (US)
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (US)
[Goodreads | Amazon]
I definitely think this is a hidden gem. As it turns out, the author who wrote this also wrote a book Catie reviewed (and really enjoyed) recently, No and Me. I didn't realize this when I picked it up, but it still qualifies for this feature as it turns out it is much less popular than that novel. (side note: I suppose even mega bestsellers would qualify, as long as the quest-goer can honestly say they haven' heard anything about them...*raises eyebrows*)
If there's one thing this author knows how to do, it is capture hopelessness. I think going into this having no clue what other people thought of it or really anything about the author made for a really exciting experience for me. However, I'm going to spoil something for you. The blurb for this book made me feel a bit optimistic about what could happen:
Every day, Mathilde takes the Metro to her job at a large multinational, where she has felt miserable and isolated ever since getting on the wrong side of her bullying boss. Every day, Thibault, a paramedic, drives where his dispatcher directs him, fighting traffic to attend to disasters. For many of the people he rushes to treat, he represents the only human connection in their day. Mathilde and Thibault are just two figures being pushed and shoved in a lonesome, crowded city. But what might happen if these two souls, traveling their separate paths, could meet?
Two miserable people find each other and make a go of it, right? And live happily ever after? You sly, sly jacket copy writer. That is not what this book is about--actually, it is is one of the most depressing books I have read lately. Almost the entire book is devoted to descriptions of Mathilde being undermined and under-appreciated at work. She is a widow and can't even bring herself to spend time with her friends because they will ask her about work. Thibault, the male lead, is an equally miserable doctor who once dreamed of being a surgeon, a dream that was crushed when he lost several fingers in a bar fight. He is in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable woman and he is unhappy with his job traveling all around the city, visiting patients. The narrative alternates between Mathilde and Thibault, and while I enjoyed Mathilde's portions more, I don't think the story would be complete without Thibault's voice thrown in. The descriptions of Mathilde's work life provided for more instances of pure rage from me as a reader than perhaps any book I've ever read. If it was possible, I'd write myself into this story and I'd have no qualms about torturing her boss in tiny, obnoxious ways until he broke into a million pieces. But both narratives really evoke the loneliness so many of us feel, even when we're surrounded by people.
"Carried along by the dense, disorganised tide, he thought that the city would always impose its own rhythms, its haste, its rush hours, that it would always remain unaware of these millions of solitary journeys at whose points of intersection there is nothing. Nothing but a void, or else a spark that instantly goes out." (257)
I wish I knew French so I could read this novel in its original language. Even so, the translation is wonderfully descript. Though not overly flowery, the book is filled with metaphors and turns of phrase just so perfectly apt that I found myself repeatedly impressed:
"So a moment must come when she'll wake up, when she'll grasp the division between reality and sleep, and realise that that is all this was: a long nightmare. When she'll experience the intense relief that follows the return to consciousness, even if her heart is still beating fit to explode, even if she is bathed in sweat in her darkened bedroom. A moment when she will be free." (211)
Please let us know if you'd like to go questing at the library. Remember, it has to be something you know nothing about. And no cheating!