It’s been awhile since I got a “Book Club” post up, but I assure you – I >have< been reading – reading comicbooks, news articles, tweets, statuses, more comics, and currently two other books (a book of short stories and a 1936 self-help book). Now, I don’t normally write up the comicbooks that I read – I try to keep it to straight-up prose, text-only books, but am making an exception here. “Archie: The Married Life” was pretty impressive and worthy of mention. “A Thousand Country Roads” is not a book I anticipated reading, but is one my mom gave me – “I thought you might like it, too.” “A Thousand Country Roads” is “an epilogue to “The Bridges of Madison County“” which I haven’t read, but knowing the basic plot was enough to allow me to enjoy the book.
These books are worth talking about together, too, because they have some similarities, believe it or not. At their core, they are both about the potential in a life, and what happens when decisions – right or wrong – are followed through on. One book looks to the past, the other moves forward into the future.
A long time ago, my brother Kyle said something about decisions that I have repeated to many, many people. I’m not sure where he got this bit of wisdom, but it’s gonna stay with me for a long time. It too, is something I thought of often while reading these books. He said, to paraphrase, “we all have to make decisions. And, if you make a decision, and find it wasn’t the “right” one – then make another decision. You just keep going.”
I think many of us get hung up on the “finality” of certain decisions. This was a good reminder to me that a decision is only as final as the time it takes to make another decision. Life occupies time, and that time is spent largely refining our “direction” – course correction, analyze, course correction, analyze…and so on.
In Archie, the creative team takes the cast in a mature route – where Archie finally makes a choice between who he loves more – Betty or Veronica. And he chooses…Betty …and Veronica. “Archie: The Married Life” follows two tales – what if he married Betty? and what if he married Veronica? It’s a pretty fun format, as the chapters alternate between the couplings. The stories take on some serious “grown up” challenges – big business vs small business, marital stress, financial stress, new relationships, the loss of friendships…there’s a LOT going on. It was a good read, but I’m bummed cuz it ended on a cliffhanger! Now I have to find Vol. 2. 🙂
As I mentioned, my mom gave me “A Thousand Country Roads” to read. She shared it with me because one of the main characters is a photographer and she thought I’d like it. A lot of times, I have a hard time reading about photographers in novels. Too commonly, the characters come off just not sounding “right.” My compliments to Robert James Waller though, because his photographer-character, Robert Kincaid, sounds pretty good.
I won’t spoil the novel for you, but like any good story, the characters introduced were not the same people at the end of the book as they were at the beginning. And, knowing that this is an epilogue to “The Bridges of Madison County”, a reader might think they know where the story is gonna go, and I will share that it does…and doesn’t. I enjoyed it more than I thought, and once or twice, it hit me deeper than I anticipated it would. There’s much meditation on the “what if?” of past relationships – an idea that many people dwell on. There are shake-ups in what characters thought they knew of the world around them. Overall, a book that was a satisfying, easy read.
As ever, if you’re interested in reading these books, please get them from either your local library or your locally-owned bookstore. Here in Milwaukee those options would be the Milwaukee Public Library system or Boswell Books.
(here’s three scenes from Archie – great artwork from Norm Breyfogle, who was previously most famous for his evocative Batman work in the 90s, an example of which is shown below)