For “in this portrayal of a place, a simple place, I seemed to see the heartbreak of all endeavor. As long as we asked questions, we would always do this, ask ones that could not be answered, go to places that could not be reached, start journeys we could never finish.” On this front, the densely detailed story is simultaneously an arching and expansive story of a woman who follows an unusual and unwavering path.
At just over 800 pages long, readers have plenty of time to tire of Morgan. She makes mistakes. She repeats mistakes. She over-analyzes some risks and she neglects to anticipate others. There is arguably too much detail about her love of the library and about relationships which do not last, but these are the kind of details which make us who we are. So, really, they belong as much as all the rest. Which might annoy some readers. But it only left me wanting more.
“So how do I end this tale? Where do I decide to stop it? There is no ending to be reached, and that is the truth of it. The whole point of everything that I have learned is that the great stories never really end, there just comes a time when you yourself can no longer take part in them.”
Morgan’s story is one of the great ones in my reading life. It’s one that I plucked from the shelves of a women’s bookshop in 1996 on a whim. When I read it this year, I expected I would be happy to pass it along afterwards. Part of me still wants to do that – because I know readers who would love this novel as much as I did – but, first, I would like to reread it myself, to travel along with Morgan one more time, as she makes tracks through treacherous territory and stumbles and falls and, then, rights herself and carries on.