2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens

2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens by Alma AlexanderAuthor: Alma Alexander
Publisher: Sky Warrior Books (2011)
Number of Pages: 347
How long it took me to read: 1 month, 2 weeks, 2 days
Where I got this book: Uncustomary Book Submission
ISBN: 9780615534930

Like a Moth to a Flame

Many people all over the world are living in fear of the eve of what they believe will be the end of the world. A great deal has been professed about what will happen on December 21, 2012, and not much of it is good. Facing the prospect of the end of your life forces you to review the choices you’ve made and the regrets you harbor. This story touches upon these and other profound ideas about the power of choice and perception. Whenever I can, I want to explore these concepts, if for no other reason then to remind myself of the importance to keep moving forward.

Favorite Five

Whittling 8 down to 5…I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “Nothing is ever perfect. You might make it better, but it will be a different kind of perfect then. There are times you just need to know when to let go.” (p.79)

4. “…you’re looking down two different roads and responding to each of them as a very different person. But the moment you take the first step on either one of those roads—the moment a choice is made-there’s only one you, only one life, only one set of memories. You might remember stray thoughts from the other—life lessons, if you want to think of it that way—but you will never know where they came from…” (p.239)

3.“There ought to have been a notebook in her bag—there always was, she carried one by what was part instinct and part ritual, but when she rooted around for it this time, in the moment when she really needed it, the thing seemed to have disappeared.

“No matter. Her mind’s eye would do. She would transcribe later; it might not be the same, it might not be as good as it came in the instant when she was standing here resting her eyes on the scenery, but enough would remain. In the meantime, she rolled up her mental sleeves and sat down in front of a blank screen in the back of her mind, her hands poised over a keyboard that wasn’t there.” (pp.11-2)

2. “It’s all just a sandy beach, and you leave tracks behind you as you walk by the ocean’s edge, but the tide always comes in and then there’s a new reality to leave your mark in, after.” (p.345)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “…if you were allowed full knowledge and free memory you would be paralyzed, you would never be able to take another step in any direction at all because you would be second-guessing yourself too hard…” (p.281)

New Words

Words are wondrous creatures. Put them together and they paint a picture. Rearrange them and the scene changes. But to be able to see what they are saying, we must first know what they mean.

New Word: snick (noun, verb)

Definition (Source: WordBook iPhone App): (n) a small cut, a glancing contact with the ball off the edge of the cricket bat; (v) hit a glancing blow with the edge of the bat, cut slightly with a razor
Synonyms: (n) notch, nick; (v) nick
Origins (Source: TheFreeDictionary.com): likely of Scandinavian origin; Old Norse ‘snikka’ to whittle; Swedish ‘snicka’
As in: “And the door to the second restroom, the one with the cheerful yellow ‘Out of Order’ sign swinging from the doorknob, snicked shut, the small sound lost in the noise of the eve of the end of the world.” (p.200)

New Word: flense (verb)

Definition (Source: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed.): to strip (as a whale) of blubber or skin
Origins: 1820; Dutch ‘flensen’; Dan & Norwegian ‘flense’
As in: “Rejecting him was the only thing to do, but she remembered feeling like dirt, stammering, groping blindly for words that would not slice like flensing knives and yet would not come out resembling anything remotely like an intention to even seriously consider the question.” (p.16)

New Word: susurrus (noun)

Definition (Source: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed.): a whispering or rustling sound
Origins: 1826; from Latin ‘hum’ whisper
As in: “Then a rising and falling susurrus of voices, coming closer to his door and drifting away, footsteps on the stairs (he knew the creaky second stair from the top, recognized its sound), more whispers.” (p.41)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“I’m learning so much about myself from this book. The pleasure I’m getting from reading about the character who’s a writer is ridiculous. I think I’m so starved for the company of other writers that getting to know Simon feels like I’m making a new friend.

“Although the first chapter was a bit difficult for me to get through, the rest of the book looks like it’s written in more of my style. I really struggle with reading books that feature many characters. The first chapter of 2012 introduces all of its main characters at once, which was really hard for me to follow, but now I’m reading the first chapter on what happens in the alternate universe of the first featured character, and I’m completely engrossed. If I were really dedicated, I’d go back and re-read the first chapter again, but I just really want to know what happens next.”

“Life’s crossroads, I can accept. Not looking back to spare the pain of regret is a lesson I’m slowly learning. But do you think that making certain choices at specific crossroads really does mean needing to renounce the refuted paths forever? Is there really a chance I’ll never be able to walk the streets of Cambridge again to feel as though they’re still my own? Will the stale smell of the Tube gushing through its wind tunnels never blow through my hair again? Have I lost a second chance to lose myself in the buttery warmth of Viennese chestnuts washed down with steaming gluhwein?

“Choices become megalithic risks, promising the weight of decades of pain when you think about them as right or wrong, always or never. But how can you not when you’ve felt the chill of their merciless breath on your clenched jaw more times than you’d like to admit?

“I think the only thing that saves us in that moment when we have to make a decision is not knowing how it will turn out. The undefined outcome and all the new choices that come along with it allow us to have hope that there’s always a chance the choice we make will be the right one. It’s in those moments when I fear that the experiences I love most in this world have dissolved into translucent memories that hope of another crossroad gets me through. Maybe one day, a new crossroad will lead me back to them.”

“If I had to choose between a life in which I changed the world around me versus one in which I had to change to fit the world, I’d need no more than a split second to decide. However I suspect that when I made that choice in preparation for this life, I chose the opposite of what I would today. I wish each day that I lived in a world I had the power to change—to inspire and empower people through words. I make choices that try to align with a reality I wish were not only mine. Most days, though, it feels as though I’m confronted with scenes from a reality to which I’m meant to adapt. Sometimes (although not as often as I should) I choose acceptance and play the game according to the rules of the reality around me, but between you and I, I never once lose hope that the seed of my reality will one day blossom and break through the rubble I sift through each day.”

“Sometimes at lunch, I take a walk. Sometimes I turn left and weave through cottage-lined, canopy-coated residential streets. Other times, my nose guides me to a grassy carpet dotted with toddlers and puppies and fenced with benches perfect for resting my eyes. And then, there are the occasional days when I brave the rushed streets of ambitious storefronts and starved restaurants. That’s where I discovered a tear in the fabric of time.

“There’s a used bookshop amidst the chaos that I pass by sometimes. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves line every inch of its aging walls like proud soldiers standing tall for duty. Handfuls of the tallest ladders I’ve ever seen lean lazily against them, suitable only for the most courageous of climbers among us. I’ve never brought myself to step through its threshold and be embraced by the millions of pages within. Being in the presence of so many leather-bound and gold-trimmed books, with what I can only presume are very complicated pasts, seems like something one should properly prepare for first. But each week, I make sure I pass by the display window, just to take a peak at what I might find one brave day on those towering shelves.

“When I’m feeling particularly bold, I slow my stride to soak up the story the shop owner wants to tell. There was once an homage to Paris that I couldn’t resist stopping to see, with its book jackets showcasing black and white images of the Eiffel Tower and others of cobbles tickling the dainty heels of well-dressed Parisian dames. Another time, foreign cookbooks from before my grandmother’s time tripped over ladles and antique china just to be seen. I think this might be Dorothea Rochas’ store.”

“I don’t believe that the other life vanishes if you don’t choose it. I believe all our present lives coexist, and sometimes, intermingle. I believe that when you see someone you’ve never met before and recognize a spark of something familiar in their eyes, you just touched another one of your lives. I believe that when you visit a place for the first time and a wave of happiness, or sadness, pummels you, it’s because you’ve remembered something that may have happened, or that might be happening in another now. What I’m not quite sure about is why we can’t remember them all, but I have a feeling that if we did, we’d end up being far less productive where it matters.”

“One thing this books reminds me of is that we’re constantly being asked to make choices—some grand and some seemingly inconsequential—that dictate how our lives unravel, all the while knowing nothing of the impact our decisions will have. But that’s OK. Make your choice anyway, right now, in this tiny window of time.

“Logic has absolutely nothing to do with any of it, at least not once you get passed the rudimentary stages of knowing that fire will burn you if you get too close. In the end, drunk on our ignorant stupor of blind-sightedness, all we have are the messages from the heart. It’s not what you think is best, it’s what you feel is best. That feeling is valid on so many levels unbeknownst to our pedestrian selves that I can only begin to imagine all there is that we don’t understand.

“So, in an effort to move away from stagnation, I choose to move forward, one blind decision at a time. The good news is that I think I’ve figured out a way to feel whether I’ve made the correct choice for me—if I feel the still, calm, warming joy deep within while time stands motionless around me, I can be sure I’m doing something right.”

“I would have really wanted to know more about Olivia and her relationship with Ariel. I think that’s what I was hoping the book would be about—not that particular relationship, per se, but rather the nature of it; the esoteric conversations that go on behind the veil.

“The idea of deciding which life to choose—or more to the point, which life to give up—isn’t something you need 2012 to experience. Each time you decide which walk to take, each time you choose one person over another, you end one world and begin the birth of the next. The end of the world isn’t as scary as you think; it’s just about starting the next chapter.”

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  1. Kat Kiddles says:

    A wonderful write-up of the author’s response to the review: http://anghara.livejournal.com/574190.html. Thanks Alma!

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