Ashley Hay’s The Railwayman’s Wife

If I could describe reading Ashley Hay’s The Railwayman’s Wife briefly, I would say that it was like going on a journey of the soul. One year in the life of a widow, trying to make sense of a world that took her husband away from her, learning how to navigate life in an unfamiliar way, and discovering new facets about herself. It is about love and loss, and finding oneself again after your whole world has crumbled.

The protagonist, Anikka Lachlan – Ani – goes through quite the transformation. In the beginning of the novel, Ani is content with her life as a wife, a mother, a homemaker. She is a voracious reader, frequently getting lost in the pages of a book, but her life is calm, relaxed. There is a ‘stillness’ about her. She’s careful in her actions, always holding back as though she’s afraid that someone will notice her, afraid to let go and live in the moment. Unlike her husband, Mac, who we get to know – both through Ani’s memories and individual chapters – as a man who isn’t afraid to let life grab a hold of him and lead him. She is docile with him, complacent. After his death, Ani has no choice but to reinvent herself, and by the end of the novel, she is able to act carefree, doing cartwheels on the beach and actually wishing for an audience.

Ani is not the only character that we see go through a transformation. Roy McKinnon and Frank Draper return home three years after the end of WWII changed men. Before the war Roy had been a teacher. He is also a poet, having published a poem while he was away. Roy walks around aimlessly searching for something to write about, discouraged by his inability to write in a peaceful setting, until he befriends Ani, finally finding the inspiration that he needs to write again. As a doctor, Frank saw a lot more death than he could have imagined while he was away and felt helpless to stop it. It is only after he resumes his relationship with Roy’s sister and gets to know Ani that he is able to start enjoying life again.

It only took me three days to read this and I distinctly remember two times when it brought me to tears. The first was after we learn of Mac’s death, and the second when something completely unexpected occurs. The novel is full of beautiful prose and descriptions, and teaches you that life does not end with death, that sometimes it can be reborn.

 

“The oceans and the skies…and the sun coming up each new day. That’s all there is, I think. That’s all that matters to think on.”

The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay, coming April 2016
The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay. Coming April 2016. Atria Books.

A Change in Tune

Ever since I started this blog, I generally dedicate my first post of the year to a reflection of the events of the past twelve months and what I hope for the next. I would focus on major events that changed my life, little moments that stole my heart, and lessons that I learned, but this time around I am going to do it a little differently for a couple reasons…one being that my life really has taken a drastic change.

For the most part, 2013 was an awesome year with few exceptions. It didn’t necessarily end or begin the way that I would have liked it to, but looking back, it actually was better. The things that I’m doing now I may not have otherwise done had the year ended differently. For example, currently I am vacillating between reading a manuscript for a woman that I met in the grocery store and struck up a conversation with, and editing my first book – this book was not written by me, it is my first editing project on this level. It is a challenge, but I really love it. I had a discussion with the author just the other day and she was beyond thrilled with the work that I have done so far, which is a great feeling. I am working on some home improvement projects, dusting off my toolbox, changing out old photographs and once again going through my closet. But probably the most important project that I have started is one that takes place inside myself. A few months ago I came to the realization that there were things in my life that I was not happy with, things that, if I really focused on and poured energy into, could be changed for the better. A reinvention. It’s not the first time that I have decided to reinvent myself, nor will it be the last I am sure, but it is always interesting to see the results come into fruition…because they always do.

Last night I was out with a couple of old friends, people who I hadn’t seen in a while, but nonetheless, people who know me better than most. It was a spur of the moment thing that got me home well after my bedtime, but it was worth it on so many levels. We bounced around to a few different spots; I made conversation with strangers, tried a fish-dish, and ended the night singing and dancing in a dive bar to Billy Joel songs playing on the jukebox. We had a discussion on life and what we felt was the one thing that is the most important. One of my friends felt that the concept of time and what you do with that time was the most important thing, but my thoughts were a little different, but I digress.

A few times throughout the night, one of my friends pointed out to me that he noticed a change in the way that I was acting, and that a few months ago I would never have done certain things or said certain things (for example, earlier that night we had been waiting for an appetizer to come out which should have been out long before. He made a comment to the waitress about it, and I stepped in and commented as well, but was much more forceful than my friend was, and the food came right after that). I told my friend about my self-improvement/reinvention project, and he was very impressed and felt that I was onto something huge. And that was when it hit me. I AM onto something huge. My friend Melissa and I talk endlessly about how this is OUR year and how amazing it is going to be, and being out with my friend last night, and having him recognize these changes in me that I’ve been making made me realize that this year will be amazing, and in some ways it already is.

Last year might not have ended the way that I had predicted it would, but I was given something that was much better. Not everyone can reinvent themselves, but I know that I can, and having these improvements and new confidences recognized is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. I can’t predict the changes that life will throw at me this year, but I do know that whatever they are, I will face them straight-on, with my head held high and with a new attitude. And. It WILL be amazing.