The Bottle CollectorBook - 2011
"After twenty years of practicing in the field, I have yet to cure a single case of mental retardation, autism, or dementia, not that I ever thought I could'but wasn't I supposed to do something profound and doctorish when people came to me with hope? "
Already feeling fraudulent as a psychologist, yet unable to shed his jaded outsider stance, when late 40s-something Mark Weathers is suddenly dumped by the younger married woman he's been seeing, he hits the tipping point. Leaving his job, he embarks on a solo sailing trip through the Great Lakes, challenging himself either to find a way back into life, or to have the courage to leave it. Along the way, steeping himself in Beethoven and beer, narrowly avoiding freighters while colliding with phantoms from his past, Mark encounters a variety of characters, and the communities to which they're connected. By turns wryly humorous, poignant, gripping, and always sharply observant, The Bottle Collector is at once a picaresque quest and a mid-life bildungsroman .
I look through the dim lighting of the instrument panel and can imagine the little-girl innocence, the pig-tails, the lithe body that was made for swimming'and suddenly, inexplicably, I want to reach out. The next few seconds come in a rush. I want to put my arm around her, but to do so now would be weird and could easily be taken the wrong way. I want to tell her that she's still young with all the time in the world to try other things, but that could insinuate she's a failure. I want to tell her I'm sorry about Stan and about the other males in the world like him, but that would change nothing. I want to apologize for trying to dismiss her so easily with that chaplain nonsense, but I already have. There must be something. She saw me, must have hoped for something worthwhile, and so she came to me. And now she's here, only a couple feet away, neither deformed nor locked away in an institution where there are so many others that one has no idea where to start. The desperation to reach out builds to panic. I muster all the energy I have and reach inside, deciding once again to risk failure, for surely I must have something to offer. Something. Anything.
Nothing. As quickly as they came, the seconds expire and I cross back to the shadows where I resume my existence as spectator from the other side of the wall.