Yesterday the Atmalogy Book Club met to discuss Shirley Jackson’s creepily fantastic novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
I accompanied my book talk with a delicious pumpkin tea from High Garden, the coolest and most delicious local tea around. (If you haven’t been to East Nashville to try them, DO IT. Their teas are also served at a variety of locations around town.)
We had a good discussion. We talked about Merricat and her sister Constance, their relationship, who was in charge and who was more stable, how Cousin Charles shook up their little world, and how their world shrank and shrank after first the murders and then the fire. They seemed quite happy in the end, in their little bubble “on the moon.”
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book.
“I was pretending that I did not speak their language; on the moon we spoke a soft, liquid tongue, and sang in the starlight, looking down on the dead dried world.”
One of the things I loved most about this book was Merricat’s inner dialog. She believed she had powers to protect her sister and herself from harm. She buried special items in the yard to keep them safe, she used safe words to protect them from evil, and she nailed items to trees. She watched the earth turn to different seasons, and she watched their days unfold in predictable patterns. She is 18 in the book, but her mental state is closer to a 12 year old, which isn’t surprising when you learn what happened the year she was 12.
“The trees around and overhead were so thick that it was always dry inside and on Sunday morning I lay there with Jonas, listening to his stories. All cat stories start with the statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this,” and I lay with my head close to Jonas and listened. There was no change coming, I thought here, only spring; I was wrong to be so frightened. The days would get warmer, and Uncle Julian would sit in the sun, and Constance would laugh when she worked in the garden, and it would always be the same. Jonas went on and on (“And then we sang! And then we sang!”) and the leaves moved overhead and it would always be the same.”
In a way, Merricat got what she wanted in the end. Maybe her life will always be the same, and she and Constance will live happily on the moon with a winged horse and plenty of rose petals to eat. I wish them well, those magical sisters.
We chose our November book as well! We’ll be taking a break from fiction to read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. If you’re a local Nashvillian, please feel free to join us at Atmalogy in November to chat about happiness.
I’m sure we could all use some help focusing on the things that make us happy. I look forward to seeing you there.