Romanov, a retelling of the Anastasia story with a fantasy twist, is a slow-burn read until it jerks into high-gear action.
The tale sat so heavily with me I had to break away from it at times. Even with physical distance, I had a hard time getting Romanov outside my head.
Kat said it was her favorite of the three. She predicted it would be my least favorite.
She was right.
Don’t get me wrong, the writing is solid. The storyline? Gripping. The characters? Endearing.
Of course, if the premise of this post is to note some books strike people differently, this post may not be worth writing.
My premise, rather, is that our past experiences inform how we presently experience a book, and if we read books together, we are let in on those past experiences.
Romanov is a book I read with a friend. Below are our two responses to it:
Why was it so heavy for you? Kat’s text appeared on my phone screen.
I thought through my answer.
It reminded me of Dachau, I texted back. And Holocaust stories.
There was a season—brief but powerful—when I lived in Germany. During that season, I visited a former concentration camp. Other tourists mulled about, but the space was void of typical tourist chatter. The grounds were quiet…eerily so.
I don’t even remember birds chirping.
We walked through halls where people once lived in unimageable conditions. We walked through halls where people once died.
It’s a visit that will not soon leave a person’s memory.
To a girl who usually enjoys fantasy or a triumphant sports biography, Romanov felt…weighty.
Anastasia was a real person who faced real pain. The book reminded me of that.
Prior to Hannah and I reading this book, I didn’t know how her visit to the concentration camp impacted her.
But now, having read Romanov and heard Hannah’s perspective on it, I can understand why, for her, this story weighed heavily.
To me, however, the story is a story of hope.
Without giving away too much of the book, we see an irreversible, life-altering, heartbreaking experience in Romanov.
Having been an EMT, I am familiar with irreversible, life-altering, heartbreaking experiences.
Hardly anyone ever calls 911 on a good day.
When someone calls 911, it is most likely the worst moment of their life. And it was my job to enter into the worst moment of their life.
And that is the only part of their life I saw.
I didn’t see the outcomes of the patients or of the family members who were left behind. I didn’t see the end of the stories.
It’s been over a year since I left that job, but it still weighs on me. I often think of one call where I watched a young girl cry over her dead mother. I don’t know if that girl has ever been able to smile again. I don’t know the end of her story. All I saw was the worst moment of it, and it replays in my mind almost every day.
Because of this, Romanov was an encouragement to my spirit. The book depicts an irreversible heartbreak, but, unlike in EMS, that pain is not all we see. We see the outcome of the story. We see the ending. We see that, even after the worst moments of the character’s life, life goes on, and life can be good again.
This book made my EMT memories a little bit easier to handle. The suffering I saw was painfully real, yes, but it wasn’t necessarily the end for those people or their families.
Life goes on, and it can be good again. Perhaps that girl learned to laugh again. Perhaps the Lord even used that experience to save her soul. Wouldn’t that be great?
And there is hope for that, because the tears I saw her cry were not the end of her story.
What Reading with Friends Gives Us
One beauty of story is that it provides opportunities for us to see into one another’s world.
Not only did I see what life might have been like for a Russian princess living in the 1920s, but I also glimpsed more into my friend’s world, and she into mine.
Reading books with friends provides new experiences and proffers language to discuss old ones.
Furthermore, because Kat saw hope in the story, I was able to as well. Reading books with friends reminds us of the Body.
Every part is needed. Because the Lord is kind, this life is not a solo act. Reading books with friends reminds us of this truth.
So how about it? Pick up a book. Grab a friend. And step foot on a journey.
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Thanks to my friend, Kat Smith for contributing to this post! And for being a friend 🙂
Photo Credit: Amazon