2030, Harold Fry, & meeting Maddie.

I have returned, as promised. I’m a pretty huge procrastinator – ask any of my previous roommates – so this is a pretty big deal. So, without further ceremony, the books I read: 

2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks 

spoiler-free plot synopsis: This book is Albert Brooks’ “first novel”, I suppose I have a thing for that. Brooks is a writer, director, and actor who is best known for writing and directing Defending Your Life & was also the voice of Marlin the Clownfish in Finding Nemo. 2030 is a dystopian work that portrays the future of America through Brooks’ chosen characters. In 2030 cancer has been completely cured, the older generations are living longer than ever, and America is in debt so far that it seems to be a plague that it will never recover from. So really, this envisioned America is feasibly not too far off. While life is still moving on, a terrible earthquake ravages L.A. and suddenly America finds itself in a very new position – it has no way to pay for the restoration of one of it’s largest cities. What follows is the account of how America changes in the years after the earthquake through the lens of the (Jewish) President, a radical youth, the man who cured cancer, and a Chinese newcomer. 

what I thought: This book bugged me out. I don’t usually go for over-the-top future America novels, as they are usually written by over-the-top political pundits and it’s hard for me to take the book seriously when I don’t take the author seriously. However, I really like Albert Brooks. Defending Your Life is a great movie and anyone who doesn’t love Marlin in Finding Nemo is a crazy person. This book bothered me not because it is over the top, but because it isn’t. Some events in 2030 are completely plausible; we do have an older population that is only getting older and no way to continue to pay for them, we are on the brink of huge medical breakthroughs that will change the human experience, and we are in debt up to our ears with no real plan to get out of it. Brooks writes with satire, but there are times that no amount of humor makes what he is saying funny – it often just makes it more sad. 

favorite quotation: “The government will come through, they just have to.” “And where is this written? In the Constitution or the Ten Commandments?” 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce 

spoiler-free plot synopsis: Harold Fry is Rachel Joyce’s first novel – goodness, I really am creating a pattern here – and is just beautifully uplifting. Harold is a retired Englishman who routinely does the same thing most days and rarely leaves his house. Upon receiving a letter from an old co-worker, Queenie, detailing her struggle with terminal cancer (sent from a hospice facility), Harold sets out to mail her a letter back. He starts to walk to the post box and doesn’t stop – he decides to walk all the way to Queenie at her hospice center on the complete opposite end of England. The book chronicles Harold’s journey from Kingsbridge to Berwick upon Tweed. The reader gets insight from both Harold’s perspective, as well as that of his wife, Maureen, that he left behind in Kingsbridge. The book is unique portrayal of an individual life & proves that you are never too late, too old, too anything to do something extraordinary. 

what I thought: Maybe it was the fact that I was driving from Ohio to North Carolina to South Carolina to North Carolina to Virginia to Ohio while reading this book, but it was really emotional for me. Harold is constantly meeting new people and getting enveloped in their stories and as I was driving passing other cars, or houses, or places of work I realized, probably not for the first time, that there are just so. many. people. It’s so easy for us to feel like we are the center of the universe, that bad things or great things have only ever happened to us, or that death or love has only ever touched our hearts. This book was a reminder that everyone has a story, the wish to be something more than they are, and to have a purpose beyond themselves. Harold & Maureen both become characters that you root for and feel for as they try to understand life in the scope of their relationship and Harold’s journey. This was a beautiful book & one that made me feel connected to my fellow humans. So, both a book and a feeling I really recommend. 

favorite quotation: “It must be the same all over England. People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside.” 

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the cool book-related thing I got to do on thursday when I got back to Cincinnati! I have followed an instagram account called thiswildidea for a while now. This is the instagram of Theron Humphrey & his rescue coon hound Maddie and it chronicles their journey across America meeting people in all 50 states. Humphrey recently put out a photo book called Maddie on Things, as Maddie has an uncanny ability to stand on pretty much anything. On thursday I went to Joseph Beth Booksellers in Hyde Park to meet Theron and Maddie and learn more about their journey & the book. I went with my best friend Aubrey and enjoyed hearing about Theron’s hope in humanity & his passion for rescuing animals. I urge you to check out both thiswildidea.com & whywerescue.com to learn more. 

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this is Ella, my rescue animal. A real weirdo – obviously. 

ashley. 

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