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The Passage

July 29, 2013

Last week we were on Long Island, although not the first one that may have come to mind—Long Island, Bahamas. It’s about 80 miles long, and we drove from the northern end through the Tropic of Cancer to Dean’s Blue Hole on the southern end. I wanted to swim across Dean’s Blue Hole and feel how deep the ocean was below me, but a commercial for something called Cool Water was being filmed, and they wouldn’t let us get near the hole itself.  photo-89

We also took a boat trip to Sandy Cay to see the resident iguanas and behold the site of some of the filming for the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. Have you ever noticed the way Captain Jack Sparrow walks kind of duck-footed on the sand? I thought it was just a comic effect, but now I realize that it’s an effort to walk on the kind of sand that is so fine your foot sinks in up to the ankle.

After watching us throw pieces of bread to the iguanas, our Bahamian tour guides left us to muck about as we pleased on the Cay, as the tide was going out. They did point out an enormous hawk’s nest in a tree and “a little lemon shark” swimming by in a foot of water. We laboriously stepped our way across the Caribbean sand bars and across a drier stretch to the Atlantic side, where picture-perfect blue-green waves were gently rolling in. Later, the guides stuck some umbrellas on part of the sand bar and we got some relief from the genuine feeling of being stuck on a desert island.  photo-78

Walker and I took out a double sea-kayak and paddled it merrily across the bay and through an inlet to an ocean-fed lagoon, where the wind and waves toppled us and we couldn’t get both of us back in, but had to pull it up on shore, whereupon it was discovered that there was a little hole and the kayak was half-full of water. Later in the week, Walker took out a single kayak and had a better time.

Most of the week was spent floating around in the shallow, clear, blue-green water or reading in the shade. We each took five books and some of us finished our own and then proceeded to trade for books the others had brought.

The book I was reading on the three planes it took us to get from Columbus to Long Island was The Passage, by Justin Cronin, and it was the kind of book I like for traveling—a small paperback, but long enough to last through a long day. An interesting plot (this one post-apocalyptic), but nothing that required too much thought.

The way parts of the story are told by different generations of survivors of the apocalypse is well-done, and the descriptive details are well-chosen:
“We had two Watchers in the car with us, a man and a woman. Folks think the Watchers were Army but they weren’t, they were from the FEMA. I remember that because it was written in big yellow letters on the backs of their jackets. My daddy had people down in New Orleans, he’d grown up there before the service, and he always said that FEMA stood for ‘Fix Everything My Ass.’ I don’t remember what became of the woman but that man was First Family…”

The survivors of the fourth generation since the escape of the “virals”–formerly-human predators with superhuman speed who resemble vampires–occasionally find boxes of books from the time before, and their reactions are revealing. I especially like it when Alicia and Peter, teen warriors from an armed camp, come upon Where the Wild Things Are and she says “that whole business about the boy looking them in the eyes and telling them to be still,” Alicia said. She yawned into her hand. “I don’t see how that would do any good at all.”

After 879 pages there is an ending, although there is also a sequel, one I don’t think I’ll pick up. There’s only so much I care to read about running around and fighting off the results of an experiment gone wrong which is wreathed in mystical details and sketchy science. It was fun while I was in passage, though.

Are there certain kinds of books you like to read on airplanes? Since we usually have several connecting flights, I want a small paperback to tuck in my purse; I don’t find an e-reader desirable because its use is forbidden on much of the flight. In fact, I put my kindle in my checked luggage for this trip and found that it was missing when we reached our destination. Now I imagine someone reading The Gone-Away World during breaks from baggage handling or some such, someone who has never gotten to fly off to the Bahamas and lie around on the beach reading books.  photo-73

15 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2013 12:44 pm

    That looks absolutely gorgeous! I read The Passage a year or two ago and like you I didn’t want to pick up the sequel. It wasn’t bad, just not good enough to make me want more.

  2. July 29, 2013 4:24 pm

    Oh my goodness, that is the most gorgeous beach! But think how long it would take me to reach it from the UK. I confess I am not fond of air travel, and getting to California and back once nearly killed me. Maybe I could be drugged and boxed in the luggage area for the duration of the trip? Very jealous!

    • July 30, 2013 8:42 am

      It took us twelve hours to get there–two cars and three planes. It’s always worth it to me to get out of Ohio, though. We came back and it was chilly and rainy, as usual, and I was glad to have been in a place that has lots of light and heat. Ohio is so dark and cold for so much of the year.

  3. MeganF permalink
    July 29, 2013 4:39 pm

    I also like books like The Passage for trips, though preferably ones that are shorter and more efficiently written (cause/effect, no?). Something reasonably engaging, but one that doesn’t make me work *too* hard. I read/skimmed The Passage’s sequel, even though his style drives me bonkers. I’ll likely read/skim the third too, though if pressed I can’t exactly tell you why other than I want to see how it turns out. I read the Hunger Games trilogy while traveling–that was just right. David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, etc.

    • July 30, 2013 8:45 am

      Yes, something engaging but that doesn’t make me work too hard. YA isn’t good for traveling for me, though, because it goes too fast. I don’t want to always have to be fishing another book out of my carry-on luggage. The time I flew with Infinite Jest was great–I only needed one book for the whole trip!

  4. July 30, 2013 12:33 pm

    Oh dear, have you contacted the airline about the Kindle? Your holiday sounds and looks beautiful, that second picture is breath-taking. I’ve not read The Passage because the reviews were too mixed and I realised my feelings about it were likely to rest on the negative side, but at that length I admire those who’ve read it. I’ve not been on a plane for a while but last time I went on a trip I took a very light reading book. I’m not great with distractions so didn’t want anything I knew I was likely to miss elements of.

    • July 31, 2013 11:03 am

      I didn’t think of contacting the airline, but I did send them an e-mail after you wrote this. In addition to the kindle–which has “non-necromancer” written in marker on the side of the case–a ziplock bag with my earrings in it disappeared from inside a little kit with my toiletries. Nothing valuable (zircon, blue topaz), but it was at the bottom of the suitcase under a bunch of stuff, so someone went through my bag very thoroughly.

      Those of us who read fast like long books and are always at least vaguely puzzled that anyone else admires the effort it takes (since it’s a guarantee I won’t run out of something to read, rather than a goal to be achieved).

  5. Jenny permalink
    July 30, 2013 3:07 pm

    I like good long books on planes, sometimes fast-paced chunkster classics like Wilkie Collins or Trollope, sometimes long thrillers or adventure stories. One time I read Of Human Bondage all the way to France. I don’t mind Kindles; the only time they won’t let you use it is during takeoff and landing (which is a pain, but not so terrible if it’s a long flight — only terrible if it’s an hour flight.) The best thing about e-readers, of course, is that you don’t have to bring fifteen books if you’re going to be away a couple of weeks. Changed my life!

    • July 31, 2013 11:14 am

      Yes, the best thing about e-readers is definitely that you can lighten your load, which is why the kindle was in my suitcase. Guess if I ever get another it will go in my carry-on, although everything is an hour flight from Columbus. We spent all day on hour drives, hour flights, hour waits between flights, and then a half-hour drive. This is what it’s like to live in the middle of nowhere (and go to a remote location).

      I share you love of long books for travel, especially because of the memories it creates, like that you now remember that flight to France as the time you read Of Human Bondage.

      • Jenny permalink
        August 2, 2013 10:06 am

        “Everything’s an hour from Columbus” sounds like a line from an old musical. Here, how about this (you provide the tune):

        Everything’s an hour from Columbus
        We start and stop and start and stop and start
        Everything’s an hour from Columbus
        But you’re a million miles from my heart.

        I could take a plane to find you, sweetheart;
        Amtrak has a train to trak you down;
        I could even hire a horse and carriage —
        But everything’s an hour from this town.


        I’m right here in the middle of the country
        Like Rapunzel sitting in her tower
        If you want me, you can find me, sweetie
        The flight’ll take you just about an hour.



        • August 2, 2013 11:02 am

          Lovely! So far I am unable to start it out to the tune of anything besides “Everything’s Up To Date in Kansas City” which doesn’t quite work with your quatrains.

  6. August 5, 2013 12:20 pm

    The Passage would have worked as an airplane book for me too. When traveling I generally select books with two qualities. If the flights or waits are long I think about books full of action to keep me engaged and distracted about the time spent sitting. If I’m making quick jumps from one flight to another I usually look for books which don’t require much thought and are easily picked up and put down.

    • August 13, 2013 10:59 am

      These flights were long enough to make me want to be distracted while sitting, and this book did a fine job of that.


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