To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
Somber or uplifting, either can be applied to that quote from the Bible. Some feel it talks to the futility of trying to escape nihilism, while others reckon it embraces the inevitable rebirth the universe always enjoys.
These same thoughts can be equally applied to the stellar novel The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. A story that grapples with these concepts, and the resulting emotional damage that continues long after you perceive the arguements settled.
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
Our story starts with Hazel, a teenage girl living for years under the shadow of cancer. She almost passed away three years previously, but a miracle drug actually brought a miracle, and now she lives an existence of life with uncertainty. Because the drug might give out, now or next week or some untold future time, and couple that with lungs that do not like functioning properly making her oxygen tank a constant companion, Hazel is not an overly pleasant person to be around. Basically a homebody, her parents push for her to go to a cancer support group meeting, which she very reluctantly agrees to.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
And this is where she meets Augustus. And quotes her favourite book to him. And goes to see V for Vendetta at his house, all because according to him she looks like Natalia Portman. And so on and so on…
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
Augustus’s different attitude, his refreshing take on life and grief and loss, his potential career ending due to his leg being claimed by cancer, his video games, and most importantly, his taste in genre literature, makes him a subject of fascination for Hazel.
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
Slowly, irrevocably, they bond and clumsily begin dating. Strengthening the relationship is when Augustus finishes reading Hazel’s absolute favourite book ever, made by the greatest writer in existence who is now a recluse. This volume, a fictional book inside of a fictional book, is called An Imperial Affliction, and features a cancer storyline and mysterious conclusion, all of which captivates the two.
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
Their love, the cancer, the obsession over the book, and dealing with relatives and friends, becomes the driving force behind The Fault In Our Stars. Add in the continued discussion slash heated debate over the existence of God, an afterlife and fate, which becomes one of the underlying themes here whether spoken aloud or permeating the background, and you have a potent mixture where differences in attitude and philosophy could be the dividing line between the two, not the cancer or looming death. All of this with cancer being a very silent, but loud, supporting character.
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
Partway through The Fault In Our Stars, the story takes an abrupt turn, followed by another abrupt turn, both of which I saw coming far in advance. My premonition of these events did not ruin my enjoyment in the slightest, but instead enhanced them since it showed John Green’s willingness to take the story into some dark places. Neither of these twists are illogical or random, but rather powerful moving forces for not only the characters themselves, but also transformative of their philosophies. Green caps all this emotional tumult with even more pleasure and pain, giving Hazel and Augustus a love story that will hit you with a sledgehammer of tears.
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
By the time you reach the concluding chapters, you witness a very different Hazel from the beginning, who even through she is still dying by bits and pieces day after day, she has now learned how to live and breathe and survive. One particular conversation towards the end, which takes place in a car ferrying Hazel and her parents, is fiercely enlightening and is a thunder strike for the reader.
The Fault In Our Stars takes you places in thought and feeling that makes the facing of what comes after and how you deal with it to a different level. We cannot imagine the grief Hazel, Augustus, and company live with, but we can slowly appreciate their views on the coming darkness that will envelop us all someday.
Whether you believe in the ethics of nihilism or the outlook of rebirth, The Fault In Our Stars dwells on these questions and seeks to maybe provide some answers.
And maybe some answers are exactly what Hazel needs.
…is currently resting from reading and enjoying Christmas with Googliebear.
P.S. I had the pleasure of enjoying The Fault In Our Stars as a Readalong with @Rebeccah95, who suggested/badgered/punched me into this wonderment. And it was also her turn to pick the book! 😉