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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fire Bench

Last week as the rain fell on the lake and mountains on a 45 degree day, I sat on this bench next to the gigantic fireplace of Lake McDonald and read. The stone walls around the hearth are filled with pictographs. I like to think the suns above the bench are representative of the 50-mile long Going-to-the-Sun Road that crosses the park from Apgar to St. Mary.

I am not much good at just sitting. My travel journal and favorite pen were in my knitting bag (which contained several projects). I chatted with cold folks from around the country. Most of the time, though, I read, and the book of choice was Richard Mosher's Zazoo, recommended by two friends who their paperback copy of the book with me.

Zazoo begins like this:
"The boy on the bike came and went. And he was like the gray cat in one way: when he was gone, I remembered everything about him, yet I couldn't be sure, absolutely sure, he had been there at all." He asks questions about the mustached pharmacist, Monsieur Klein, especially wanting to know if he is married. Thirteen-year-old Zazoo is enchanted with the boy and explains to him how she came to live with Grand-Pierre on the canal in France from her native Vietnam.

This boy, whom she learns is named Marius, does return, but not as soon as Zazoo hoped. For a while, the two exchange postcard communication, the first being a reprint of a Chagall painting with a Paris postmark. It arrives not at the Mill of a Thousand Years/Mill of Milan but at Monsieur Klein's pharmacy. It is he who finds beautiful postcards for her to send to Marius.

Mysteries surround Zazoo's life with gentle Grand-Pierre. At 78 years, he is growing old, sullen, quiet, and forgetful. Zazoo lovingly calls him Old Boulder (one of his many nicknames, not all of which are pleasant). She assumes the role of caregiver, seeks to find stories, asks for answers, mends his spirit, and bridges gaps. The questions Marius asks lead Zazoo to more questions. Stories are revealed by Monsieur Klein and Grand-Pierre that tie the characters' lives together and bring about healing. Throughout the narrative are poems composed often by Grand-Pierre, sometimes by him with Zazoo's help, and eventually just by her.

Take time to read this poignant book. Read it on a bench if possible. Not until I reached its end did I understand why I had chosen to read it on the fire bench.

1 comment:

  1. what a beautiful post. i'm so glad you loved this book. it is a rare jewel. like you.