Friends don’t let friends borrow books. They come back bent or torn, or the borrower’s grubby little hands have left dirty little prints on the shiny hot-pressed cover. Adverbs, by Daniel Handler, was a different story entirely. Along with the other “Praise for Adverbs” on the inside cover, I wrote, “‘WICKED!’ – The Only Person Whose Opinion Matters.” I quite literally destroyed the book with pen. Normally I find it appalling to happen upon a new book that has been desecrated, but I couldn’t help it. I was underlining passages and writing notes in the margins to Eric (“the next part is really good and you’re not allowed to stop!”). He didn’t understand why I had put so much effort into lending him the book, something I have not done in a very long time.
I’ll describe the book as a smattering of different people in love—yes, love. It’s a love story. It was nonsensical to me until precisely page 194. My pen furiously scribbled and messily underlined my favorite part: “If you follow the diamond, in my mother’s ring from Africa to Germany to California to Arizona to Wisconsin…you would forget the miracle, the reason diamonds end up on people’s fingers in the first place. It is not the diamonds or the birds…it is not any of the nouns. The miracle is the adverbs, the way things are done. It is the way love gets done despite every catastrophe.”
We’ve all had those messy moments—whether it be a woman’s teetering decision to commit to marriage, or a freshman’s worry over asking a sophomore to homecoming, or even a second grader telling the boy she’s been chasing on the playground that she likes him likes him. Everyone on some level has experienced love. But we judge the act of love so hastily—a girl who doesn’t have a date to the dance is considered hopeless without a second thought. We are expected to find someone who we can tolerate, call it “love,” and be done with it—and if we really want out, divorce is entirely acceptable.
I cried at the end of this book because so many people must not know what true love is. Love itself, the noun, is not earth-shattering or new. But it doesn’t have to be what we expect. You can be in love with a stranger, love a relative, or truly be in love with a band. Now I am able to understand the quote “love knows no bounds.” As much as someone can hurt us, we can forgive and forget. Fight after fight, mistake after mistake, love gets done despite every catastrophe. This book taught me what love is, and that is the most important lesson any human can learn. It is the reason that I made Eric borrow my book.