Losing Yourself in Story
Only to Find Yourself There
When’s the last time you were lost in a good story? I was, just yesterday, and it was a really good story – one of those where you read the endorsement of someone stating they couldn’t put it down and you're like, “Yeah, that’s what they all say.” But this really was one of those books. It was a powerful story.
The thing about not just a good book but the best books is that it’s not just one you can get lost in but it’s a story where you also find yourself.
And here’s what I mean by that. The best stories are not escapes from reality.
There are plenty of those stories and while those could be needed or useful, they do not serve the best purpose.
Because someone emerges from such an “escape” and finds their life is still the same; they’re not any more well equipped to deal with things than they were before they absorbed themselves within the pages.
It doesn’t quite serve the deepest or better purpose that a story can …
And that is not losing yourself in someone else’s story but finding yourself …
And one of the last places I would think to have that happen would be in a World War II novel.
It is a historical novel titled, The Long March Home by co-authors Marcus Brotherton and Tosca Lee. I’ve never read anything by Marcus Brotherton but have read several of Tosca Lee’s books, including Sheba, Iscariot, and the Books of Mortals trilogy.
I’m not really into war novels, but saw that the book focused on a different angle and setting than several books I have read that take place during WWII. Instead of Europe—France or Germany—the story is set in the Philippines and follows a young man and two of his childhood friends as they try to survive what has been called the Bataan Death March, the largest surrender of American troops in history, I believe.
But the story also keeps returning to the childhood and teen years of the characters, mainly the POV character, Jimmy, as they are growing up in Alabama. And there’s a girl. (There’s gotta be a girl, right?)
But the way the back story unfolds slowly while the main narrative is taking place is nothing short of masterful. And I seriously needed a tissue or several during the last 100 pages or so. Some parts are devastating but overall, I loved the book.
Back to the idea of some books being escapes from reality and others shining a light on one’s own reality, losing oneself in a story in order to find oneself …
I have next to nothing in common with a fictional character from the deep south, a boy growing up nearly a century ago, joining the army, heading to war.
But I do understand running away from things yet carrying so much baggage still inside.
I get interacting with someone every day and seething inwardly at anger and resentment I’m holding against them.
I saw myself in a kid afraid to return home after years away, to a place where everything and nothing might be the same.
In all honesty, you might read the book and be like, “What’s the big deal?”
My teenage son read it (I suggested it as he’s into the World War II era), and when he finished, I asked what he thought. He was like, “It was okay, but the end was kind of meh.”
And there I was, weeping through those last pages. Maybe I’m just growing more emotional in my ongoing years. 😊
But whether it’s this story or some other story that moves you deeply, I know one thing. Our hearts, our souls, are wired for story. Why, exactly, or how? I do not know. Yet I hope you find stories and threads in those stories that give you the gift of losing yourself to find yourself.
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