Come late afternoon, as dusk floats in like moats off a dust mop, I fill the teakettle, set out a cup and saucer, then rummage for a bit of a nibble to tide me over until dinner. It is often the best time of day. The hours have settled in, the evening’s meal is simmering, and the soft glow of lamps glow from within. This is an opportune time of day to nestle into my latest book, a magazine that just arrived, or to take the time to appreciate the holiday cards that are arriving.
On one such afternoon, I settled into a small book I picked up at the library. It was one of those books marked as “staff picks”, displayed among other recommendations. I often find little gems amongst these suggestions. Such was the case as I opened “Evenings at Five” by Gail Godwin.
Christina, a writer, and Rudy, her husband of nearly 30 years, work on opposite sides of their home; he composing music, she crafting words. Promptly, at five, they come together, she on the leather sofa, he in his Stickley chair, sipping cocktails while discussing each other’s day’s work.
The reader realizes, not far into the book of some 114 or so pages, that Rudy has died, suddenly. Although he had been ailing, the death was unexpected. Christina reflects on their long life together, trying to fit the pieces of her new one into a new order.
A woman who relies on visuals in her writings, Christina’s ghost of Rudy is one she hears rather than sees. She imagines conversations with him, hearing his voice, several octaves “lower than God’s”. It is a poignant, revealing, sad and sometimes funny journey as she copes with the loss of all she has known and begins to settle into the new life Rudy’s death has played to her.
“Evenings at Five” is based on Gail Godwin’s long partnership with composer Robert Starer. The story is rich in the music of language, told from the heart and soul of a woman who has surely known grief.
I read “Evenings at Five” in two sittings. It is a small book, more a novella, that can be read in a few hours. I found it hard to put down, both for the poetic prose, the story line, and the charming, simple line drawings that are used to illustrate the objects of Rudy and Christina’s life.
This was a gentle and sensitive book for me to read, on two evenings, at five.
Do you ever pick up a staff recommendation from the library or bookstore?