Questions from a gorilla

I’m not sure what I’m going to write about,” I tell my husband. “Usually, I know.”

“Do mean your blog?” asks eight year old girl with authority from the other room. “Write about the book I’m reading.”

Funny, because I had wondered about it and then forgot. My brain is in a mushy phase these days. I forgot to go to the choir practice last week despite having specifically asked to have it moved to Wednesday. I would list the other things I have forgotten except I can’t anymore. The guilty moments are kind of blobbed in together. I know they happened but they’re mercifully hazy.

My daughter is right. The first non-Geronimo Stilton/non-Magic Tree House-ish tome (aka real book) that she is reading on her own, deserves a post.

“The One and Only Ivan,” is a novel by Katherine Applegate, and a recent Newberry winner. It took me more than a month to actually open it because the picture on the front kept telling me that I would not like it. The picture lied. Once first page was peered upon, the book only shut briefly for small emergencies, and to assure the children that I still loved them. I completed it all of a Sunday afternoon and evening, as the children need fewer reminders of my affection (really only food) when I am not checking on the banging, crashing, and eerie silences coming from wherever they are.

“It’s never too late to become who you might have been,” says the George Eliot quote at the beginning of the book.  (Consider rereading quote despite the dangers of doing so.)

For twenty-seven years, Ivan the gorilla has lived a resigned life as a mini circus attraction at a mall. He allows himself small joys but feels it impossible that he could ever truly be himself. In a particular moment, love pushes him to become an actor, rather than a spectator, in his own life.

As with any decent children’s book, it is as least as much a book for adults as it is for children. Along the way to a plain good story, the book comments on friendship, art and humour. But the part about it not being too late for becoming is the part that knocked me over. (I am currently sitting as a result.)

I’m wondering about the roads that I quietly hope for but assume will disappoint me. Maybe they’re not dead end roads but merely unknown roads, cresting over the knoll, around the bend, carrying on into the open country and beyond. You. Me. Who might we still become?

10 Comments to Questions from a gorilla

  1. Stacey Ferguson-Dittrich says:

    Thanks so much for this reminder girl!! :)

  2. Leslie Lynch says:

    I needed that reminder this morning. Thank you, Michelle – and eight year old daughter!

    Today I will take steps to be an actor rather than a spectator in my life, and more importantly, allow myself to believe that there is still someone I may become.

    Most of us aim too low with our dreams. Let’s aim high. :-)


  3. Rachel Bushnell says:

    how heartening! Up ahead on the horizon is a big 70 and this morning I can see the road going right smack between the numbers. Got my painting supplies in hand. Here I go!

  4. Michelle says:

    Happy almost birthday!

  5. Cindy says:

    I’m not one for posting my thoughts online although I’m enjoying your blog! BUT – your post today about The One and Only Ivan was enough to force me to do something I don’t normally do :-) I LOVED that book! Elisa was reading it for a book club and she was in a little bit of a time crunch so asked me to help. Well, let’s just say I did more of the reading and she did more of the listening, simply on account of I couldn’t let her read without me!! We spent a weekend sprawled on the couch reading and were so sad when the book was over. But the legacy of a good book lives on – we still talk about Ivan, Stella, Ruby & Bob!

    • Michelle says:

      I’m so glad someone else has read the book and loved it. I wasn’t sure by the end if I loved Ivan or Bob more. Thanks for reading. And extra thanks for chiming in on The One and Only Ivan!

  6. Anne says:

    Sounds like a book I should read! It reminds me of that Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”