The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty, is a fabulous book on every level. The surprising story of a middle-aged matriarch leaves no twist in society unexplored, leaves no comment on morality, success or life itself unsaid. And it's all said in brilliant story-telling prose meant to make a reader think about the ideas behind the themes without even realizing it.
As you turn the pages wondering what will happen to the chaperone, Cora,
and her 15-year-old charge, you are actually thinking about the human
constructs of acceptance and loss, wondering about the human definitions
of success and failure, and contemplating where morality really lies in
the span of our own lives.
It starts slowly, but the descriptions carry you through the first few
chapters, and these are necessary to set the melodious and normal
backdrop that the adventures and ideas take root against. It provides
the necessary context of a mid-western life, and the stunning contrast
of modernity, momentum and gumption that even the most normal people
show over the passage of time.
It made me cry.
And yet the storyline disputes set the resolutions up so wonderously
soundly that not only are you gladdened at the end--for life, for
people, for ideas--you're also aware that beneath the surface of these
words, these stories, is a lingering message, a message about how we
define our own little worlds, about how short-sighted people can see. We
see how our mundane-seeming lives and thoughts are all pieces of a
bigger, interlocking puzzle.
It was brilliant. Truly.
I think the biggest testament to this book, though, is not what I think
of it, but how it made me feel. And not about the specific thoughts
within the book, but about me. About my family. About life.
I felt good; I feel good.
It allowed me to open my view of life, even if just momentarily. I saw
my life not as a 30-year-old mother of twins, but as I was as a child,
and as I will be as an older adult. It reminded me that even though each
day seems tediously the same, so many changes are subtly occurring
inside and out that every moment is driving to the next, and every
action can make a difference.
In the book, Cora lives through horse-drawn buggies, Prohibition, two
world wars, the Depression, the civil rights era, all the way up to the
1980s. She goes from wearing corsets to watching gay pride rallies. Life
can be long and it is always beautiful.
And after reading her complicated tale, I look at my own simple life
with my loving husband and kids and I am grateful to be me, living in
the era in which I live. Yes, things can be bad, in the immediate, but
long-term, life is beautiful.
This is the best book I've read in a long time.
I realize I've told you absolutely nothing about the content of this book, so here's the blurb:
Only a few years before becoming a famous actress and an icon for her
generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita to make it
big in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a
thirty-six year old chaperone who is neither mother nor friend. Cora
Carlisle is a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for
making the trip. She has no idea what she's in for: Young Louise,
already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous blunt bangs and
black bob, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for
convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will change
their lives forever.
For Cora, New York holds the promise of discovery that might prove an
answer to the question at the center of her being, and even as she does
her best to watch over Louise in a strange and bustling city, she
embarks on her own mission. And while what she finds isn't what she
anticipated, it liberates her in a way she could not have imagined. Over
the course of the summer, Cora's eyes are opened to the promise of the
twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being