Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book: Forests of the Heart

I was in a bit of a reading pickle, having read all my library books and not knowing what to read next, when I remembered I had this de Lint tucked away on my bookshelf, for "emergencies." Charles de Lint! Always good in a reading emergency.

I'd picked this one up once or twice before, but for some reason couldn't get into it. However, this time it "took" and, as per usual when reading de Lint, was instantly swept up and away to Newford, where nobody does blending of myth, magic, and urban realism like de Lint.

Bettina San Miguel, a Mexican-Indian (meaning Mexican Indian, I think) healer, has found herself in Newford, living in an eclectic artists' retreat, doing modeling for the artists and creating small healing charms for the residents. She is unsure what she is doing here, until one day she looks out the back window and sees a group of men standing around in the yard. She senses magic clinging to them, although they appear to be ordinary, slightly rough dark men. Through a series of rather dramatic events, it is revealed that they are actually homeless, roaming Irish spirits, brought over from the Old Country with the immigrants, now becoming harder and angrier and fiercer as they hatch plans to take the New World land from the native spirits which currently reside here.

There were many storylines interweaving closer and closer together until they all came together in a single focal point, and all of them were interesting. However, unlike de Lint's older novels, I didn't feel as though there was quite as much introspection within the characters this time. I felt as though there were a few (small, but noticeable) holes in the character's inner lives (as revealed to us, anyway). For instance, Ellie, a sculptor who plays a key role in the book, apparently carries an astounding amount of power/magic inside her. She has been completely unaware of this until Bettina tells her... and even though she and her magic are essential to the story, we don't feel her magic. She never quite feels it either... apparently it just exists, whether she knows it or not.

Which is what I assume happens usually anyway in real life. We all carry power and magic within us, and often we have no idea. But, when reading about it, I'd like to have a feeling of revelation, of magic blossoming. Still, that's a small quibble.

Lots of action in this book, and lots of old familiar characters popping up here and there. I really enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would. It was sort of sad, however. Blending Celtic, Mexican, and Native American myths and spiritualism, I learned a lot while being completely engrossed in the story.

One part in particular really got to me. In Bettina's past, she was trained in brujera, magical healing arts, by her grandmother, in the New Mexico deserts. As part of her training, she was introduced to the myth-time, where the spirits live. On her first solo visit to the myth-time, she encounters a small band of brightly-colored los cadejos, spirit-dogs. She is drawn to them, as they play and sing, so lively and cheerful. And yet, they are homeless, and wish nothing more than to have a home, to have someone know them. Bettina invites them and they leap into her chest, to be carried about with her always... until a tragedy turns her away from all spirit dogs, and they leave her. With an empty heart.

In the end, they are reunited. This is what made me so happy and broke my heart, all at the same time.

"Have you though more of our bargain?" she asked. "What you would like in return for the help you gave me?"
"Si. We want you to be our friend."
Bettina laughed and shook her head. "We are already friends."
"We want to be friends forever."
"That is not something friends bargain over," Bettina told them.
"That is all we want."
"Nothing more."
"!Nada, Nada, Nada!"
"But you have this already," Bettina said.
"Then we are content."
"Here in the forest of your heart."
"Where we have our beautiful home."
"La casa del cadejos."
"We are content."

For some reason this made me think of our sweet Tiger Lily, whom I found as a little lost kitty, desperate for a home and love. She adopted me instantly and I fell in love with her on the spot. She left us, too soon, last September and I still find myself in tears often, missing her deeply. She was such a presence in our home and hearts. After finishing this book, late at night, I just cried and cried. I know she is living in my heart and keeping close tabs on us, but I still want her back, every day.

Anyway. This was a great book, and if you like de Lint, you'll love this one as well. I wouldn't start here, however. Still, it reminded me of this little idea inside which has been tugging at me, saying that it wants to go to the desert. We will see. I am needing wide open spaces and clean air and quiet dark nights with brilliant stars. I'm not generally a desert person (preferring forests) but this has been nagging at me for awhile. Who knows what the next year will bring?

I'm so tired and this SSDI crap is taking its toll on us. I've said it before and I'll say it again; I can't wait for April 13th so we can finally take a step forward. I'm exhausted (Terri is beyond exhausted) and trying to just keep my sights on what's immediately in front of me, placing a temporary hiatus on all worries, plans, "shoulds" and wishes. Two more weeks. We can do it.


Tammie said...

im sorry this book made you so sad. it definitely sounds like life is taking its emotional toll on you guys right now.

i want to read this one though. i like newford and want to visit it from time to time. :)

Daphne said...

Tammie: yes, you'd enjoy it. And yeah, our house is a bit of an emotional hotspot right now, but that's just how it is for a while. Oh well!