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No Two Persons

"Wandering is a gift for those who are lost."

It’s the opening line for the story nestled inside the covers of this book. Books about books. As an author, they’ve always piqued my curiosity. I always wonder whether this will be the one that gets it right. Is it possible to capture what it means to feel a story? I got my answer, and the irony is not lost on me. Yes and no.

I almost feel as though I cheated my way through this book, but I wouldn’t have chosen to do it any other way. Let me explain. This is the first ever fictional audiobook that I’ve consumed. And to stumble across the fact that an audiobook plays a critical part in this novel was a little piece of reassuring kismet for me. On a road trip from Oklahoma back to Florida, these characters and voices kept me company in a compelling way. Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. So many geographical states that paralleled states of mind while listening to these narrations.

The cover of this book shares that it’s a novel. In the conversation with Ms. Bauermeister at the conclusion of this audiobook, she describes it as a collection of interconnected short stories. It’s apropos, because the connection—between the stories, the characters, and me as a reader—was as real as it gets.

Every author should read this book. Every non-author should read this book. The way Ms. Bauermeister shares her gift is indescribable. It just has to be experienced. But if I had to put words to it, they would include practical, psychological, philosophical, and poetic. To keep the alliterative tone going, it’s perfectly presented. There is inspiration, encouragement, and tips for writers nestled between each of these words. And the consumption of each story as a reader is, as the author puts it through the eyes of one of her characters, like eating an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. You want to devour it as quickly as possible but you don’t want it to ever end.

There is motion in stillness and stillness in motion. I’ve always thought better while moving. I recognize now that it goes even deeper than that. I feel more deeply when I’m moving. Listening to these words shared in a variety of voices moved through me with a stillness of mind and heart that sounds contradictory, but it’s the only way to put it. That’s the power of a well-told story, or in this case, nine well-told stories. That interconnection idea shared earlier applies as much to the characters as it does to our different states of mind at different times. A story means something different to every person. It even means something different to the same person when read at a different time in their lives. It’s pure magic.

I return to the first line of Theo’s story (the story inside this story). Wandering is a gift for those who are lost. Aren’t we all lost in one way or another? Some more so than others. Isn’t there always more to explore? And not always in a geographical I must visit this new locale manner. But rather through a journey of thoughts, through the eyes and ears and hearts and souls of other characters. I’ve always shared that we read a good story to navigate life, not to escape it. But I amend that statement. I think it’s a little bit of both. That opportunity to wander, through every definition of that word, is truly a gift. It can lead us to new and wonderful places as this novel or interconnected collection of short stories has done for me.

We assign a number of stars or coffee cups or some other emoji to rate a book. But those marks aren’t really about whether a book was good or bad or indifferent. It’s more a measure of how a book impacted you as a human being. That’s what really matters. We call these words shared between us as a review, but it’s so much more than that to me. It’s not an assessment of it’s worth. Rather, it’s an outpouring of emotion that gets shared and spreads from one person to the next, like little seeds waiting to be planted and watered, blooming into some new flower that is the same but different from the one before it.

The words and punctuation marks consumed may be the same, but no two readers ever read the same story. Each feels something different. And it’s in the sharing of those different vantage points that we connect and grow and dare I say, change the world. Such is the power of a great book, and this is one of them.

Dave’s Rating: ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️


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