A croaky voice mirroring my croaky voice from Thanksgiving week scratched out a "hi, it's me."
Immediately, I knew it was my sister phoning. Flattered that Leslie was expending her minimal vocal ability on me, I asked her, "what's up?"Les assured me she was making the most of her illness by huddling into bed dressed in her new nightgown and robe from Mom.
"Do we now have matching nightgowns and robes?"
Mom was very even-handed with our birthday gifts. Now we can dress alike even when we're sleeping.
Les told me she was curled up with the new John Irving book, Avenue of Mysteries.
"Are you kidding me," I shrieked into the phone—I'm reading Avenue of Mysteries right now.
Despite her laryngitis, Leslie was eager to talk about the book.
"Where are you?"
"I'm in Oaxaca when Parrot Man shows up.Where are you?"
"Lupe is the best character."
"My favorite, too. I love Juan Diego's relationship with his sister, but I can tell it won't end well."
"What do you think of Juan Diego's reading?"
"I'm surprised Irving didn't include The Hotel New Hampshire as part of Juan Diego's reading list."
You get the sense of the conversation. All week long we've been checking in with each other.Leslie stopped over and we checked in.
"Are you in Manila yet?"
"Yes, and I'm getting a little tired of Miriam."
Of all the millions of books in the world it struck me as remarkable that Leslie and I should land on the same book at the same time and read at the same pace.Of course, we chose the books according to our personalities.Leslie just happened on the book, loved previous John Irving books, and got it. I had read a review, thought it sounded promising although I'd only liked two previous Irving books, and I reserved it at my local library and waited for weeks until it was available.
When we were writing Jewish Luck:A True Story of Friendship, Deception, and Risky Business, it became a running joke that when we got together on Sundays to write, we'd usually wear almost the same outfit. At times we began immediately to write, rewrite, or interview Alla or Vera but there were plenty of occasions when we'd veer off course. Our conversations could travel anywhere including gossiping about a book.We became cheerleaders for the authors we read. Leslie championed Mikhail Iossel and became his facebook friend although I read Every Hunter Wants to Know first. I am a die-hard Sir Martin Gilbert fan, mourned his death, and still read the newsletters sent out under his name. We treated our favorite books and their authors' bios as if they were family.
We didn't really need John Irving and his protagonist, Juan Diego, to remind us there are mysteries, synchronous events, and unexplained phenomena in the world that weave through our lives. There are books that guide us through life and form us. A sister is a best friend is a theme that threads through Avenue of Mysteries. . Thanks, Juan Diego for reminding us to see the mysteries in our world.