Well. This book. Where do I even start? Besides with the fact that I loved it?
Heating & Cooling is a little gem. Little in that it's barely 100 pages, and many of the pages have only a few sentences. I read it in one sitting--or, rather, gulped it down in one sitting.
It's a memoir in 52 "micro-memories" by the poet Beth Ann Fennelly. They're not in chronological order; some are hilarious, others heartbreaking, some seemingly deep while others are seemingly shallow. But in the end, isn't that who we all are as people--a mix of the sacred and the profane, the sublime and the ridiculous?
As a poet, Fennelly is no doubt aware of the value of brevity, and how something left out of a narrative can be just as important as what's left in. Frequently she doesn't give us the whole story of a situation, but we don't need it. She's pared her life down to a series of small vignettes that together add up to a much bigger picture.
For example, the book opens with this stand-alone paragraph, titled Married Love:
"In every book my husband's written, a character named Colin suffers a horrible death. This is because my boyfriend before I met my husband was named Colin. In addition to being named Colin, he was Scottish, and an architect. So you understand my husband's feelings of inadequacy. My husband cannot build a tall building of many stories. He can only build a story, and then push Colin out of it."
On the surface, that's chuckle-worthy. But stand back for a moment. It's also warm-hearted in a way. And it seems like something that may have started as a joke on the surface, even if her husband was really reacting from a place of insecurity, then became a moment of solidarity. And after all, she married him, not Colin the fabulous Scottish architect. So we've learned something about their marriage, and it's charming.
Not all the pieces are charming, as I mention before. But Fennelly has a deft hand at knowing when the reader needs a break from harsh truth, or even truth that's not harsh, but is also not charming.
As I said, I read this in one sitting, but I would/will go back and read it more slowly, take more time to savor each individual piece. Together, it's a hell of a collection.