“Alice I have Been” by Melanie Benjamin. Read it. Go, now, to a library, or your nook, or amazon, and get a copy of this fabulous book. As I create a place of honor on my bookshelf for the novel that I read from start to finish in one mind numbing, blurry, dreamy afternoon, I think to myself, I loved this book. I mean really loved it. Of all the books I’ve ever read in my life, which are countless, believe me, there are really only a few that I have really and truly loved with the whole messy puzzling wonderful range of human emotion. There are books that we read because we should, books that we read for the writing itself, books that we read for the story itself, those that we read to escape, because we want to laugh, or need a good cry, for the shameless fun of it, and to learn. But this book was different. It had all of that and more. Part history lesson, part magical tale, part fact and part fiction, this book was all true. And this book was breathtaking-literally at one point I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe- aching, beautiful, wonderful, tragic, and enchanting, and I am completely enamored with it.
It was heart breaking. And I sobbed. And laughed. And rejoiced. Because it was also magical and wonderful and true and fictitious and real all at once. I just love it. There are some books in which you lose yourself as you peruse their fantastical shores, some in which you find yourself, and some special few in which you do both. You lose yourself in the magic and mystery of this book, of the story of Alice, the real and the fictional, of the history, the reality and the wonder of it all. But you find yourself too; your spirit, your inspiration, your passion, your own joys and thrills and heartbreak and grief, your own uncertainties about life and love and happiness and how you can feel so many things at once. This-this ability of mesmerizing books and truly gifted writers, to weave stories that are powerful and made up, but still as real as today and tomorrow and yesterday, as cold rain and as warm sunshine, as real as love and pain and hope and joy and suffering-this is the true wonderland. It is beauty and heartache and life. And it is fascinating and impossible, thrilling, terrifying, and totally unexplainable. But that is life. That is real. That is wonderland.
Curioser and curiouser, life is illogical. Truth is stranger than any fiction we can dream up. And that, that is why we all love wonderland. This story has been around for over a hundred years, immortalizing and outliving its creator and its muse. It is cherished and loved, and it permeates the world today. And it was just a simple story, made up on the spot, like so many countless others in a quirky life, to amuse three children on a lazy afternoon. And yet this story remains; it persists, it is special. Why? Because in that moment when real life does not make sense, when we feel like the rug has been pulled from our feet and we are falling endlessly down the rabbit hole, or watching, befuddled, as a mad hatter worthy tea party scene unfolds in real life, as we try to make sense of the beautiful messy, illogical puzzle that is this reality, we remember Alice, all that she has been and could be, her dreams and her daring, her puzzling adventures on the other side of the looking glass, all the impossible things she believed before breakfast, and we know that we are not alone.