Every reader knows the acute and unique pain of going through a book rut – when nothing interests you, you can hardly finish a page before getting distracted, and it seems like there will never again be a book that hits you straight in the chest and lives on forever under your skin. That was me recently.
Maybe it’s the quickly warming new spring air, but finally, the fog of my book rut started to lift. And then I found this book.
Reading Levy’s memoir is not a clear spring day. It’s a dark, heavy winter. It’s cold and gray and raw. And yet, like any winter, it has those moments of perfect blue clarity and just the right amount of sun. Levy is a woman of self-described “too much”. She lives in a world where she wants what she wants and she goes out and gets it; from a career in journalism, to the bright-eyed and all-American blonde named Lucy, who in a tumultuous and yet wholesome relationship, later becomes her wife.
She gets it all. She gets her career, her wandering years of youth, a family, and all of it rounded out by a pregnancy. She sets out to cover a story in Mongolia and when she returns, nothing in her life is the way she thought it would be.
Levy’s clear voice and her searing honesty have led some people to bristle against the book, or at the very least, state that she is an unlikable narrator. I disagree with this, but also ask – why? Why is Levy’s acute honesty about her pain, and her choices and her mistakes, inherently unlikable? Isn’t that who we all are, deep down at our core? Instagram and various other social media forms would have us all believe in a perfect universe, one where sunsets are abundantly vivid and food perfectly served and life carefully aligned exactly the way we want it to. It eludes no one, I think, that all these images are so carefully curated that they may scarcely even resemble the lives from which they came.
In Rules, Levy takes off the filter. She takes herself to task for the things that she has done. She leaves no memory in rose-colored glasses, but instead, acknowledges the light and darkness that makes up every life.
The book is also a meditation on the realization that everyone comes to somewhere between their twenties and thirties: my life is not what I thought it would be. This is not what I had planned. Her descriptions of finding yourself in a place of uncertainty are unflinchingly real and relatable. She captures that moment and feeling of realizing that you don’t recognize your own life, and that maybe it’s your own fault. That may make her, in some views, an unlikable narrator. But aren’t we all?
Levy refuses to live in a Valencia-filtered world, but her memoir reminds us that in every dark and cold winter, there is always the promise of spring.