“I keep telling you the future isn’t set in stone. It’s not all decided yet. The future is just what’s down the road we decided to walk on today. You can change roads anytime. And that changes where you end up.”
Chasing Windmills is by Catherine Ryan Hyde. She is the author of the popular novel Pay It Forward, that became a mega movie hit. Like the characters in Pay It Forward who face a myriad of difficult life challenges, the male and female protagonists in Chasing Windmills are trapped in rather bleak existences. Life has been tough for seventeen year old Sebastian, kept in virtual exile by a controlling father and for Maria, a twenty-two year old who is constantly trying to pacify Carl, her abusive partner. Trevor, the hero of Pay It Forward must find a way to deal with bullies. Both Sebastian and Maria must also confront the bullies in their lives.
Connection #2- Don Quixote
The phrase ’tilting at windmills’ comes from the book Don Quixote written in the early 1600’s by Cervantes. It means ‘attacking invisible enemies.’ Don Quixote bravely fights windmills he imagines to be giants. Although this book is called Chasing Windmills and not Tilting Windmills the allusion to Cervantes’ hero seems obvious. Both Sebastian and Maria, the two main characters in Chasing Windmills have their own giants to slay if they want to change their lives. Breaking away from their fears and being brave enough to take a chance on new relationships makes it possible for them to alter futures that would appear to be set in stone.
Connection #3- Modern Windmills
The book reminded me of this painting by my husband’s cousin Ruth Driedger, which shows modern windmills. People often think these steel wind machines mar the landscape but in Ruth’s painting they have a beauty all their own. Sebastian, the main character in Chasing Windmills remembers seeing these kinds of windmills near his maternal grandmother’s home when he was a little boy. His father has cut off his contact with Sebastian’s Grandma Annie but the image of those beautiful windmills has stayed with Sebastian and conjure up warm feelings that inspire him to try to reconnect with his mother’s family.
Maria the female protagonist in Chasing Windmills is named after the main character in West Side Story. That story of ‘love at first sight’ definitely influences Maria. She feels a strong connection to Sebastian the first time she sees him, just like Maria did the first time she saw Tony in West Side Story. Sebastian’s friend Delilah gives him the play Romeo and Juliet to read after he watches West Side Story. Delilah tells him the Broadway musical his friend Maria loves is based on Shakespeare’s play. Sebastian’s Dad doesn’t believe in love so while he has introduced Sebastian to Shakespeare he hasn’t let him read Romeo and Juliet. There are comparisons between the star-crossed lovers in Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story and the love Maria and Sebastian share, but there are also important differences.
A subway ride is a pivotal event in the 1998 movie Sliding Doors just as it is in Chasing Windmills, since the two main characters Maria and Sebastian meet while riding the subway. Sliding Doors describes two parallel universes and for much of this book the story is told from the point of view of the two parallel universes inhabited by Maria and Sebastian. Sliding Doors examines how much control the individual has over their future as does Chasing Windmills.
This book was an inspiring, hopeful read and made me do some serious thinking about my own life and attitudes. The main characters are almost unbelievably naive and the minor characters very stock and stereotypical. The plot is a bit too predictable save for the ending, and the parallels between the alternating narrators a bit too closely drawn. It was a good summer read however and I got up early this morning and skipped my work out at the gym to finish it. How’s that for a recommendation?
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