Beginning with “The Maytrees”

Well, it’s my first post for Unwind and I must admit that I’m quite excited.  In fact, I’m so excited that I’m going to begin not by writing about a new book, but with one of my favorites from 2007:  Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees.

I’ve always loved Annie Dillard from the moment I read her 1974 nonfiction work, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (which I still try to read annually when everything starts to come alive again in the spring).  There’s something about her writing that has always captivated me, particularly her ability to showcase the most horrific and beautiful aspects of life in ways that we don’t always immediately notice or think about, whether this pertains to nature, love, religion, or something else entirely.  Dillard anchors her prose in a poetic sensibility that helps to create images that stay with you long after you put the book back onto the shelf.  And The Maytrees is no different.

The novel begins in post-World War II Provincetown, Massachusetts where poet Toby Maytree meets Lou Bigelow.  The two soon wed and set about living a sort of bohemian lifestyle, literate and liquor-drenched.  They experience the seemingly average aspects of married life:  joy, arguments, children, etc.  But the relationship ultimately succumbs to betrayal when Toby decides to begin anew with a longtime friend, despite middle age and years of marriage and dedication to Lou.  It is with this betrayal that we really see the idea of unconditional love peeking through the cracks.  Unfortunately, if I say anymore, I fear I’ll give away most of the story, which would be a shame.  However, I highly advocate that you pick up this book in paperback-it’s relatively short, thus not entirely burglarizing your time.  Plus, it’s a non-traditional, often painfully real love story that truly captivates.

To end this brief but rambling spectacle of mine, I’ll just say this about the novel:  The Maytrees is an exploration of love’s complexity, even amid the terrifying trajectory upon which life can sometimes set us.  Particularly, how passion waxes and wanes over time and how the suffering that comes from merely living affects the relationships we spend our lives forging and cultivating.  And despite this, the real heart of The Maytrees is sustained by true love’s unconditional nature, which can withstand the most brutal aspects of the human experience.

As the books narrator says, “Falling in love, like having a baby, rubs against the current of our lives:  separation, loss, and death.  That is the joy of them.”

Added bonus:

Here’s a link to an excerpt from the novel thanks to NPR.

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No Comments on "Beginning with “The Maytrees”"

  1. Anonymous
    02/09/2009 at 2:41 pm Permalink

    One of my favorite books 🙂

  2. William Hone, Jr.
    03/09/2009 at 9:14 pm Permalink

    A great choice for the inaugural posting of your blog. I have recently posting “Yes to The Maytrees by Annie Dillard” on symbolpond, so I find your enthusiasm appropriate. Keep blogging.

  3. JAMY
    03/09/2009 at 10:08 pm Permalink

    Annie Dillard is an amazing author. Great little article Ryan. I look forward to seeing more of your stuff!!

  4. Jack
    04/09/2009 at 8:33 am Permalink

    I loved the book also….great!

  5. Mel
    06/09/2009 at 11:46 am Permalink

    I’ll have to put this one on my reading list.

  6. Anonymous
    07/09/2009 at 9:54 pm Permalink

    I’ll read this book. Thanks!

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