Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One of my favorite books

As a teacher I find that kids are always asking me "what's your favorite book, Ms. O'Sullivan?" They think because I taught English I would have 1 favorite... which would be impossible.

I have some of my all time favorites, which are books I don't mind reading over and over again. I have my favorite books "I've read in a long time", or "My favorite book recently" or my favorite book of 2009, etc... I just can't seem to pick ONE all time greatest book ever. That would be like trying to pick my favorite flavor of ice cream- and we know that's just not going to happen!

There is one book that's on my "All time favorites" list that is pretty common, very commercial, and was considered "popular": The Smoke Jumper by Nicholas Evans. This is a wonderful novel that tells the story of a friendship of three young people over several years.

Ed and Connor are best friends, despite being complete opposites. Ed loves music, is a talented piano player who dreams of making it famous, who loves the theater, and was raised in by wealthy New England parents. Connor, raise by his single mother, loves all things outdoors and is a rugged photographer. These two men become best friends and meet every summer in Montana, shouting cries of "hearts of fire" as they jump from planes together to put out raging forest fires.

One summer Ed brings Julia, the love of his life, along on the trip so she can be a counselor at a camp for troubled teens, and to finally meet his best friend Connor. When they meet, they instantly become fast friends, though Connor falls in love with Julia, and she with him. But that summer, tragedy strikes, and after a devastating accident, these three are bound together for life.

Connor stays in touch with Ed and Julia, but out his love for her and his frustration at not being able to have her, he travels the world, especially to war zones, taking photographs, becoming an award winning photojournalist.

Connor is a charismatic character, charming and full of integrity- he would never do anything to dishonor his beast friend's relationship. The story is beautifully told, complicated, simple language, a love story between people, between places, between events in life that shape a person's character. This is a wonderful book and I just love to read it again and again. Julia is a strong woman, honor bound, and still hold her head up, and doesn't whine about her life choices- because they are HER choices. Ed is painted colorfully in both his worlds, powerful and profound as the novel wears on, showing his transformation in a way that seem like he could be a real person in his given situation.

The setting is described with fabulous words, from Montana to Boston to third world countries, more than a cursory glance is given to all these destinations.

So, when someone asks me what my favorite book of all time is, and though I don't have "just one" I would certainly say The Smoke Jumper ranks right up near the top of my list, and comes mighty close to being "the best."