Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I just finished this book; it only took me a matter of days because I just couldn’t put it down. I LOVED this book; it is now on my top 10 all-time favorite book list, along with The Book Thief and To Kill a Mockingbird.

So instead of telling you about this book I am going to tell you a story about when and where I finished this book. I finished this novel on a plane, traveling by myself. So let me set the stage for you…
“Alaska Airlines flight 830 to Portland, final boarding call”. I stand in the boarding line, backpack on, phone in hand and book tucked under my arm, excited to have two hours of uninterrupted reading, and of course to see my husband who has been in Portland since Tuesday (we are spending our 22 anniversary in Portland).
“Good morning!” I say to the flight attendant as I board, smiling she replies, “Welcome aboard”. Walking and waiting, walking and waiting, it takes about 5 minutes for me to get to my seat, bags up, bags down, overhead bins open, overhead bins closed…and on and on. I finally get to my seat, 28C, aisle. The two ladies I am sitting next to are already in their seats so I quickly take my backpack off, take out my glasses and tuck it under my seat.
I get settled into my seat buckling my seat belt. I take a quick look around at the many faces surrounding me. They are talking to their traveling companions, looking at their phones, talking to the flight attendant trying to get their bags in the overly crowded overhead bins. I am content with my surroundings so I open my book and begin to read.
I’m starting a new chapter. Via and her mom are in an argument about her play, Auggie gets upset and runs to his room. He waits and waits for someone to come check on him, no one comes. Finally Via comes and gets Auggie because Daisy is sick…
Now at this point, people are still boarding the plane, movement is going on all around me, and my eyes are tearing up. I look away from my book and get the tears under control, I start reading again, Via and Auggie must say good bye to Daisy…The tears have now left the building! I am trying to cry silently, I am trying to control the mascara that has been perfectly placed. I stop reading again, regain some control and think I really should not read this now, but I have nothing else to read and we haven’t even moved from the gate yet!
I decide to try and skim this part of the book, because there is no way I can get through it without making a mess and a scene.
No good, I can’t skim, I read every heartbreaking word and I am now a blubbering waterfall. I finally remember that I do have tissue in my bag so I pull out my backpack and grab one, ONE…what was I thinking? In a matter of seconds that ONE little tissue is S.O.A.K.E.D.
I blow my nose, pat my eyes trying not to disturb the make-up and I discretely look around to see how many people around me are wondering what the heck I am reading, it seems that they are paying no attention to me…which disappoints me, I want someone to look at me, ask me “What is wrong?” or “What are you reading?” I want to tell someone about this book that I am reading, but alas I continue by myself in the solitude of my book.
I finally get through the chapter about Daisy and read about the overnight field trip, the bullying and the rise of true friendship from characters that were not so friendly.
I smile.
I am in a happy place right now, one with my book, enjoying my time.
The drink cart comes around; I get some water and enjoy their little salty snack that they still hand out for free. I take off my glasses, and pull out a tiny mirror to check my eyes, make sure they are not big black raccoon eyes, they are not. I surprise myself at the “carefulness” of my crying and wiping, I am good to go!
We finally have about 30 minutes left of the flight and I am just about done with the book, the timing should be perfect!
I put my glasses on, open my book and continue reading. Alas, I get to the end, graduation, Auggie made it. He is happy, he has friends, his parents are proud and then Mr. Tushman gets up and speaks. He speaks of kindness…Tears once again start falling, this time I cannot control the nose and the tissue in my hand is useless because it has become a limp soggy piece of nothing.

I finally go into my backpack and grab another tissue. I blow my nose and get that all under control and I finish the book just as wheels are touching down. 
I look around again, and still, no one has noticed that this stranger sitting next to them was taking a different trip then they were. While everyone was flying to Portland, I was on an emotional roller coaster, one filled with, empathy, sadness, caring, understanding, frustration, and love.
I get off the plane and head to the bathroom to really check my face. My eyes and nose are slightly red, but I am happy. I have just experienced a literary piece of excellence.
As a teacher it makes me want every student to read this, to see the different perspectives of all the people affected by something that is not “normal” and what it means to be a true friend.
As a parent to two healthy girls it makes me to see that I sometimes forget that there are families out there that are dealing with things that I just cannot relate to but that in the end we as parents love our children unconditionally and always want them to be safe and happy.
As a human being it makes me see that there really are a lot of good people out there but because of those rotten few it sometimes takes a little bit for that kindness to come through. 
Therefore, it is our job as teachers, and parents, and most importantly human beings to teach and show by example what it means to be “just a little more kind”.

1 comment :

  1. LOVED reading your account of experiencing this book, Shawna! You've certainly made me want to read it! :)


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