I’m going to attempt a book review today, on a book I read last week called “The Silent Sorority“. Bear with me, because I have never done a book review before and the only English I studied was the compulsory stuff at highschool. So in all likelihood, I’ll be breaking all the How To Do a Book Review rules.
I’m also going to mix it up a little, because last week I saw the movie of a book I read a while back, called “The Life of Pi”, which is a kind of symbolic book and lots of people online and elsewhere have gotten their knickers in a knot trying to work out “what it means”. Spoiler alert – if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie and still mean to do it, please don’t read any further (but then do come back here afterwards and let me know your thoughts).
This is my take on The Life of Pi. The book is about finding God. Pi (whose name is based on an irrational and infinite number), tries out a number of different religions. Then in a catastrophic event (a shipwreck) he loses everything and everyone. That’s a fairly common theme when it comes to finding God – people who either purposefully go into some kind of seclusion in order to get closer to God, or those who had no intention of finding God but through losing everything, they eventually do. Pi is left on a life raft, (eventually after a few other animals on the liferaft die), with a tiger. I believe that the tiger represents his own inner demons, and for 227 days he is alone with these inner demons of his. After a short interlude on a seemingly perfect island, (which to me represents life’s distractions, they’re never quite as perfect as they initially appear), Pi and the tiger are back out at sea. At the end, they are truly stripped of everything, food, water and hope and both are preparing to die. At this point the tiger has his head in Pi’s lap, at this moment when he is so stripped bare of everything, he and his inner demons are united and at peace. Yin meets Yang. And suddenly, there it is…. the shore.
So now back to The Silent Sorority. This book is about infertility, but it’s a book with a difference. This is the one without the happy ending. It’s refreshingly free of miracles, refreshing because, for thousands, probably millions of infertiles out there, that’s how it ends. Nothing happens. The author tries out a number of different fertility treatments. Then, in somewhat less of a catastrophic event than a shipwreck, she slowly starts to deal with losing everything she ever thought she was and was going to be, and everyone she thought she had a connection to, who now have no other topic of conversation around her, than that of children. In the mother-centric world we live in, the author is kind of like Pi, alone on a liferaft and left to deal with her own inner struggle. One of the distractions that she used, is one that made me chuckle out loud, because I felt like she was outing me (I’m doing the exact same thing)! She did something that would seem completely crazy to a fertile woman, she started to take the birth control pill to make her periods go away. After 10 years and 120 menstrual cycles, with her chances at 1 in 120 (well actually 0 in 120), it made perfect sense to her (and to me), to make those devastating monthly reminders go away. The seemingly perfect island. And then, in the end, when her inner torment is at it’s worst, well there it is, the shore. She starts to find a way of existing and being in a world that accepts only parenthood as a meaningful purpose in life.
Society truly loves a miracle, we are brought up to believe that there is a way out of anything. Cancer? Think positively. You must be eating something wrong, here, read this book about someone who miraculously recovered. Infertility? Well I had a friend who couldn’t conceive for months and then she ate pineapple and fell pregnant. Have you tried pineapple? Marital problems? Well you know, everyone should find their soulmate, the perfect guy, leave this useless relationship and find your prince charming, he’s out there, I promise. Paralysed? I know someone who learned to walk again, here, I’ll give you her number.
What it boils down to is this – a type of survivor mentality. In our minds we feel like we will never die, as long as we know the solution, as long as somewhere in the back of our minds we have a formula to survive. It will never be us in the tsunami, because we would have been the ones who found a tree to hold onto. And as long as we hold on to the belief that it will never be us, then really, we are immortal. Everything is possible, and we drive and push ourselves onwards to make sure we get our hands on our “everything”.
The only real freedom though, is the one that Pi found as he surrendered his entire being to God, in the moment of his life when there was no water, no food, no hope – and the tiger’s head was in his lap. He was facing and acknowledging his mortality, his deepest darkest fear. Looking it in the eye and being at peace with it.
Sometimes, that’s what it takes.