I just finished listening to “Blessings” by Anna Quindlen. It is gut wrenchingly good. The writing has that balance that is so difficult to find today. It is so well crafted and thoughtful yet still accessible. It is a story so well written that, in the twists and turns, I had to remind myself that this was only fiction.
“Blessings” is a store about a newborn baby abandoned at the driveway of a wealthy estate owned by the Blessing Family. The caretaker, a man in his twenties, finds the newborn wrapped in a soiled flannel shirt in a flimsy cardboard box. The baby is still so new to the world that she has the stub of her umbilical cord – tied off by the barrette of her estranged mother. The man just out of prison with barely a father to speak of for himself, raises the baby as his own.
Quindlen writes about the early days of parenting as only a parent can. She accurately yet poetically describes those frantic days of trying to understand an infant that cries for no clear reason and seems to want nothing more than to go back to whence she came. You can just picture the smiles of this baby girl and how she clasps this young father’s finger and unfurled the heart a harsh life has locked away. You are proud of the single father like a he is a friend because Quindlen develops each character so nicely.
I think what grabbed my heart the most is how she so accurately touches on what a baby does to the hearts of those around her. Quindlen describes perfectly how a baby seems to open possibility in the minds of those jaded by the world. She makes the young man want more out of life for his daughter and himself. And, for those that feel as if they have outlived their life just as the matriarch of The Blessings thinks, a baby makes you look forward to the future if for nothing more than to watch the little one take her first steps or watch the dawn of recognition in her eyes and smile.
It is beautiful to listen to and filled with enough suspense to keep me listening to it. I found myself keeping my Ipod on as I cleaned up around the house or rode my bike to the office just so I could get in a few more minutes of the story. It is one of those books you do not want to end, but cannot put down. Yes, it is sappy, but I think mothers and grandmothers in particular will like it.
I will not spoil the book for you, but will say that I think any parent will find it heart wrenchingly beautiful and accurate. I found myself hugging E a bit tighter and gazing at her a bit longer. My husband thought I was ridiculous. But if something makes you cherish your life just that much more, why not let yourself get lost in it?