I get some of my best reading done on an airplane. I don’t know what it is about it. Maybe it’s the weird stasis of being in the air. There’s not much else you can do. There are no pressing concerns; there are no deadlines. Time has no meaning in air. It passes as slowly and as quickly as it chooses—not to mention the pesky changing of time zones as you go. You never quite know where you are. I’m sure there’s some kind of existential metaphor there, but I’m not getting into all that today.
This weekend, my wife and I stole away for a weekend trip to Charlotte to celebrate our 10th anniversary. It was an unexpectedly wonderful trip; we were surprised by just how much we found to do on this surprise trip. (COVID travel restrictions cancelled our original plans and we chose Charlotte by essentially throwing darts at a map.) But we had more fun that we could have imagined. We will definitely be returning.
And as the plane was transporting me to North Carolina, a brilliant author was transporting me elsewhere.
We were seated at a weathered picnic table on the beach behind the Fragata Lounge with a view of old fishing boats tossing on their moorings in the wide bay. The high tide was practically touching our feet. Rachel was across from me talking in Spanish with her aunt, a few cousins, and some others. She had wanted me to meet her family.Strange Love (3)
One of the things I love most about Fred Waitzkin’s writing is his ability to transport me to other places. He paints a scene in his opening paragraph that, even with an economy of words, plops me in the middle of a story. His stories are immersive and masterfully woven.
A few years ago, I reviewed Waitzkin’s Deep Water Blues, and enjoyed every second of it, so I was excited at the opportunity to read Strange Love when it was presented to me. In fact, I didn’t even read the description when the email came through, I just remembered the incredible experience I had with Deep Water Blues and knew that I wanted to read whatever Mr. Waitzkin had to offer me.
Strange Love is a complex, quiet story. A narrator who remains unnamed, two sisters who are opposites sides of one coin, and complicated stories of love and loss are spun together in such an intriguing way that when the book ends, you’ll both feel satisfied and want so much more.
One of the things that sticks out to me as brilliant about Strange Love is the dual storylines that weave throughout this story. While Rachel is telling her own story of her sister, her mother, her nephew, and her own life, the narrator weaves his own tale in, dropping the life of a former writer, a has-been who has lost more than he could ever hope to regain. He’s lived his own tragedies that could never amount to Rachel’s, but preoccupy his own mind.
As a reader, I was invested in both stories equally. I wanted to know about the narrator’s story just as ,ICG as I wanted to know about Rachel’s. I was intrigued by both, the story of potential that felt tied to a failing lounge and family obligation, as well as potential fully met quickly fizzled out.
For readers who are more sensitive, I will caution you. There is nothing explicit, but Rachel’s story is heartbreaking. It will take its toll on you. It will find the deep places of your heart and rip at them, just a little bit. And—if you’re like me—you’ll love it for that exact thing.
Take a moment, allow yourself to be plopped into the middle of a story, stay a while with some characters who need some love. Enjoy a new culture, and enjoy Waitzkin’s description of island life. He clearly has a love for it; he shows it so beautifully both here and in Deep Water Blues. And allow yourself to become immersed and invested in Rachel’s story. I recommend it.
The Plucky Reader