I’ve thought a lot about how the world changed… in what seems like an instant. Do you remember where you were when you realized this was real? That there was a something out there that could change our everything? That could kill millions, in only a few months; that could demand that we all wash and wash and wash, and cover our faces, and stay away? That would leave us aground and unable to go, go, go, and make us stand at a distance as we get married, as we get sick, as we graduate, have birthdays, and as we die. That whether you believe one side or the other, your life, our lives, would be so very altered. Do you remember what you did that last day, when things were normal?”
I was with two dear friends and my husband. We were celebrating one’s birthday that night, and wanted to seize this beautiful day. We hiked up and up a very steep and long hill, and into the woods, to a clearing that looks out to the islands, where we live. We all paused and felt so grateful, that we were giddy. For a few moments. Two of our group are doctors, and so we talked about this virus thad had come to our neck of the woods, and hit hard, one hour south. We all knew enough to know that it would come here, too. To this pristine, magical place. I’ve mentioned here before: I had been watching it in China. I saw that it was not to be toyed with. It was not to be dodged. I knew it would come. And while my husband and friends chided me in January and into February, by February 29th, as we sat looking at the shimmering Salish Sea, we all knew it was real.
Literally that day. As we hiked back down into cell range, all of our phones pinged. A message from our Governor. We would all need to take precautions. A nursing home near Seattle was under siege, and the virus had made its way to the community. We all paused, right there and looked at each other. We hugged. We knew what was coming, though no one really knew. We knew that two of us would be on what was soon called “the front line.” We knew that this wouldn’t be simple or quick. We knew that this was that last day, before it all was changing.
So, we went to our favorite oyster farm and we ate outside, side by side with the briny sea that shared her bounty with us. We watched paragliders sailing above us, and the Doug firs leaning toward the shore. And we clinked glasses, counted our blessing… And, each of us stored that memory, because, we knew.
Since that day, the four of us have leaned on that day, remembering how special it was, and how we all felt something else coming, as our phones pinged, and the day receded to reality. How we seized those moments, and understood that they would matter. That we would remind each other, and tell our kids, and maybe our grandkids, about how we watched life change, In An Instant.
Now, I read a lot more. And I’m tying book reviews into my marking of time, and my documenting of this strange time in history. The title In An Instant is what grabbed me. I think it spoke to my lingering sense that everything changed so fast, that we have all been left dizzy. The book was what I needed, though dark and challenging at times. It grabbed me and held on for a little while.
I wanted a pager turner. I wanted a book that would take me away; one that I could dive right into. In An Instant does all of that. Suzanne Redfearn has written a story that is riveting and thought provoking throughout.
I will avoid spoilers––read the back cover and you’ll get the gist––but this is a story that every parent has imagined, to some extent or another. Redfearn examines a family tragedy with wonderful compassion and insight. She does a great job of building characters, and 16 year old Finn is a memorable one. (**spoiler, on the book jacket) Killed in a tragic accident, Finn is the narrator, as she watches over her family and comes to terms with life without her. At times, this story reminded me of The Lovely Bones, minus the very dark elements of that book. Redfearn does a good job of fleshing out this young girl, and allowing the reader to experience her life, after her life.
There are parts of the book that were less engaging for me. Again, no spoilers, but some of the melodrama pulled me out. I didn’t always connect with the mother’s motivation and behavior, and there are times in the story that I was disappointed in the build up and then fizzle of some story threads. Finn’s sister Aubrey seems to float in and out of the story, but the author never fully explains why she is so peripheral, when the book opens with planning her wedding. These kinds of details pulled me out and confused me. The sense of time doesn’t always add up, and (as a Hospice worker) I found myself frustrated by the story’s portrayal of grief and loss, which felt rushed and unrealistic. Redfearn uses some cliché language and character/place details at times as well. (see my Kindle notes)
Despite these small issues, I enjoyed this story and got what I was looking for; I was swept away and lost for a little while, in someone else’s tragedy. I was swept up in hope and renewal. The story occupied my thoughts for the week that I was reading it, before bed each night––it was was sweet, touching, and hopeful. And right now, that is what I need in a book. Take me away from this crazy world that has turned upside down!
Where were you when the world turned upside down? Have you read this book? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love the company. I’m physically distancing and socially connecting; join me!
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