Why do people read books? Some may say for the stories—and that is partially true. But one reason I read books is for the ending. Or rather, the moments after the ending, where the whole of the book—characters, plot, storyline and prose-- can be contemplated and digested at once. When the whole story is told and all the pieces of the puzzle fit together and I sit back and let out the breath I didn't know I was holding. Suddenly I remember the cold tea that's sitting next to me that I forgot to drink because I couldn't stop reading. And just like that, as I set the volume aside. Quite a small thing, are books, and made of such fragile paper. Yet they move mountains and churn the sluggish coggs of my mind.
I realize where I am and the shock of being back inside my own body makes me unable to speak for a few seconds.
That is finishing a good book. That is beauty and mystery come full circle. That is reading.
There is something otherworldly about the hour after the last page is turned. Everything is different. I am not the same person I was when I started the book. The world is not the same world. Of course, this depends on the book. Some books do not satisfy—where as other are like jewels in the sun and lifeblood to my veins.
Today I finished The Distant Hours by Kate Morton and the writing was suburb. She really understands people; the depths of human relations and the lenses through which an individual views the world. Not only does she understand but she can beautifully relate it to the reader with a skillful, fluid prose that is akin to what I must do when I breathe in and out. Except she does it with a pen.
I will say that not all her books have made me feel. I hated two of the four of hers I've read. But of the two I loved, I have loved them with a passion unequal. They are literary masterpieces .
After I have read a particularly good book I feel satisfied. I feel complete. Centered.
After I've finished a novel of particular wonder I always need a break of 2-3 days to just mourn and celebrate. I'm mourning that the world is closed to me. There is no more I can learn about the characters and places I have come to adore. There might not be closure.
But I also celebrate as I internalize the ideas, concepts and “breath” of whatever novel I've finished.
A good book should leave you with that out of air quality, like the way an invigorating swim in the moonlight with your lover lingers with you long after the honeymoon is over.
A good book becomes part of you.