The Jigsaw Puzzle of Unfolding: A Book Review of “Lost Wyoming”
“You will receive everything you need when you stop asking for what you do not need” – Nisargadatta Maharaj
I love picking up a book in the early evening and always vow to read just for a bit to relax. To escape. To get out of my own way. Only to have this book keep me up till 4 am because I must know what happens. I must know how it all unfolds. I must know how all these pieces of a puzzle fit.
A few weeks ago, I had a pleasure of finding such a book in Debra Snider’s “Lost Wyoming” novel. I heard it said many times that fiction is often more real than the real life. Perhaps it is so when the author has courage to be transparent with her feelings, her emotions, her questions and her opinions. Debra Snider is so honest while she invites us to get to know Maggie Winslow and her family. In the process we get to know ourselves and our own families and see how our own pieces complete a puzzle.
When I first began reading “Lost Wyoming” I was taken aback by Maggie. How can anyone be so disenchanted and disillusioned in their 20s? Yes, I know many of us experience a midlife crisis, but, a quarter life crisis? I haven’t met anyone who went through that. Or perhaps I have, but simply didn’t know because they didn’t talk about it. Or I wasn’t curious enough to find out. Did I take an inventory of my own life be it in my 20s, 30s or 40s? Was I able to truly feel or did I just justify and escape?
In “Lost Wyoming” I got curious. I wanted to get to know Maggie and through her, to get to know myself better. What would cause Maggie at such an early age to ask if life was colorless? Was it her early childhood? Was she loved and seen in those crucial first years of her life? What would make her look at her little niece and appreciate simplicity and delight of childhood while feeling that all that wonder disappears when we grow up?
Hence, I got to know Maggie and her parents Nell and Hank, her sister Becky and Becky’s family, and Dave, the sensitive, focused young man who Maggie met in college. The man with whom she clicked immediately, developed a wonderful relationship, but then had to let go.
Anne Lamott says: “Expectations are resentments under construction.” And Maggie Winslow lives her life out of expectations. Expectations of herself, of her family, her job and her boyfriend. This “how it is supposed to be” blinds her to how magnificent life is with its saltiness and its sugar. One day life throws her a painful curveball she might not be able to catch. Maggie puts her catcher mitten on and instead of living in the past or the future and what ought to be, she goes into the late innings of this life’s baseball game and becomes fully engaged in it.
It is her fully and lovingly participating in this unfolding that made me fall in love with Maggie Winslow. Because Maggie is forced by life to get out of her own way, her heart emerges. Maggie becomes vulnerable and accountable.
I also fell in love with Nell and Hank, Maggie’s parents and their myriad quirks. Hank adores and dotes on both of his daughters. He worships his wife. And Nell is a pistol who can be difficult to adore with her discontent. As her daughters would say, “mom is simply mean to dad.”
Just as Maggie, Nell can’t live in appreciation until she is forced. When Nell finally realizes that every moment of this life is a gift she passes this realization to her daughter. “For the first time, I feel like I’m actually living my life instead of standing next to it, evaluating it all the time.”
Debra Snider with her beautiful and eloquent prose reminds us to explore our puzzle pieces and to get out of the way be it in our love lives, our familial lives or our work lives. Sometimes in real life, it is hard to formulate thoughts and questions that invite us to the table of the now, until it might be too late. Until, there is no more unfolding. “Lost Wyoming” gives us the language to start now.
When I read “Lost Wyoming”, it was shortly after my friend and co-worker Joyce Newman died from a flu. When I read Nell say, “I lived my life as if it were a rehearsal, as if the point was to identify slip-ups, shortfalls, mistakes. Areas of improvement to clean up before opening night. What I didn’t understand was that opening night never comes. Or, more correctly, that it’s all opening night.” Those few sentences helped me not only in my healing, but also in honoring my friend’s legacy: Life as it is, is meant to be tasted and cherished to the fullest.
Those few sentences helped me not only in my healing, but also in honoring my friend’s legacy: Life as it is, is meant to be tasted and cherished to the fullest.
That is what poignant novels do: they heal, uplift and make us grow. Maggie through her process, invited me to skip my doubts and come from enthusiasm and conviction. Regardless our age, we have a choice. To tell our story and to live our story with openness.
It is the journey that matters here. The road and its unfolding. Pick up “Lost Wyoming” with an open heart and you just might be surprised what missing pieces of the puzzle you will find while receiving what you need.
This article was first seen in Women in Parking’s online newsletter.
Astrid Ambroziak is editor of Parknews.biz. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.