The Van Gogh Café
By Cynthia Rylant
Magic, Hope, and Transformation. Who couldn’t use a little of that in their life? You just need to visit the Van Gogh Café in Flowers, Kansas. This café is in a building that was once a theatre. “Anyone who has ever seen anything happen on stage – anything—knows that a theater is so full of magic that after years and years of opening nights there must be magic enough to last forever in its walls.” Or is Clara the real reason for the magic? Clara, the daughter of Marc and store owner, is ten and believes that anything can happen.
A grieving man is on his way out of town and he has no idea where to go. His wife has just passed away and he feels he must leave until he drives past the Van Gogh Café. He sees people feeding a possum and other hungry animals standing beneath it. “And then the man sees something else there, too, something unusual no one else has seen until now. And because of what he sees, he turns his car around and drives back where he belongs, back to his farm, which he turns into a home for stray animals, animals who come to him and take away his loneliness.” What does he see? Hope? A purpose?
The most moving story was in The Star. An elderly actor enters the café early one morning and the owner, Marc, recognizes him. “He is tall, and slender, and he moves like water.” The man sits in the café from sun up to sun down. Marc finally asks him why he is there. “Why, sir, are you at the Van Gogh Café?” The man pulls out a picture of himself and a friend from 1923, when the café was once a theatre. He tells Marc that he is waiting for his friend. It comes time to close the café, but the man is certain that his friend will be coming and Marc allows him to stay. Marc took his daughter home and returned to the café to find that the man’s friend had finally come and taken him home.
On a much lighter note, a writer stops in at the café. He has been trying to have his work published for four years. “The writer sits a long time watching people come and go. He watches their faces change when they enter the Van Gogh Café-the tiredness lift, the worry relax, the hurry slow down. They come in and they are kind and modest and funny.” “There in the Van Gogh Café, he is reminded of what he is and of what he finds beautiful.” He realizes his real calling to be a writer.
This book was a quick easy read. I am becoming quite intrigued by Cynthia Rylant’s style of writing. This particular book has simple writing, but there is great depth that the reader could interpret. I have noticed her ability to write about issues in our society in a subtle way. The beauty of it all is how one may interpret the text. I also have noticed her varying lengths of sentences. Some can be quite long while others can be one or two words. In this example, “The daughter fascinates the writer. She is so still. Wide, watchful eyes. She reminds him of the moon or an owl.” There is a greater emphasis placed on the description which helped create Carla as a character.
This is a well written book that is a delight to read. There really is Magic, Hope, and Transformation in this book as well as in our own lives. We just need to slow down and appreciate the Magic in our daily lives, Hope that all will work out and allow the Transformation to occur.