Right?! Finally, after more than half the book Edgar Drake gets to meet Dr. Anthony Carroll and tune the piano he has traveled halfway around the world to tune. He is, after all, The Piano Tuner (by Daniel Mason).
Even in their meeting and the first days in Mae Lwin, I found Edgar’s experience to be painfully familiar. He was eager to tune the piano (of course he was!), yet he found himself on an expedition with Dr. Carroll. I had to laugh when Edgar whispered, “What’s the matter? Are we . . . being attacked?” “Attacked?” The Doctor handed him his telescope. “Hardly . . . this is even better Mr. Drake.” It was a bird.
Remember how much energy goes into re-figuring out what an attack looks like versus what spotting a new species of a bird?! It’s easy to laugh at Edgar, but I too have wanted to “get going!” with an assignment, only to be frustrated and confused.
More confusing foreshadowing when Dr. Carroll said, “You should come simply because it is beautiful, because you just arrived, because you are my guest, because it would be rude for me not to show you the wonders of your new home.”
New home. Hard to know if this is merely linguistic or not. In Chinese they use the phrase “live” and “stay” interchangeably. It took me quite a while to catch on that someone wasn’t actually living in a hotel, it was where they were staying for the weekend.
During those first early days, Edgar was bothered by Dr. Carroll, but couldn’t articulate why. This is familiar too. Remember when you first got to your assignment and people were not quite what and who you thought they would be; but sometimes you couldn’t say why.
I also laughed when Edgar said, “That makes me worry about everything I have read.” as he learns the difference between what goes in an official report and how it may differ from reality. In chapter 13, Edgar spends the day in the surgery with Dr. Carroll and he still has not seen the Erand!
At long last, in chapter 14, Edgar sees the piano and says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t think I would be so affected. It is . . . beautiful . . . ” As the conversation with Dr. Carroll continues and Dr. C explains why he hadn’t asked for a piano tuner at the same time he requested the piano from the military. “At times my enthusiasm outruns my abilities.” I love this line.
I was a bit thrown by how conflicted Edgar was at the thobught of returning home. Yet I shouldn’t have been. I was also profoundly changed in a very short period of time.
In chapter 15, Khin Myo and Edgar’s conversation about how the Burmese, both men and women, are characterized in the British newspapers. Felt a bit dejavu-ish to today!
Khin Myo’s “I think perhaps it is a mistake of the ruling to think that you can change the ruled” has me thinking. I know we come with a different purpose than either the military or a colonizer and truly desire to set captives free from eternal darkness. We offer hope! We come in the name of love. But we also all come from a historical, political, geographic, even a personal context. Khin Mayo’s comment leaves me wondering where we might be making unintended “mistakes.”
And then Edgar got malaria! It’s awful being so sick so far away from home. We know.
In chapter 16 Edgar spent much of it wandering around, having tuned the piano, waiting for Dr. C to return (from where? Edgar didn’t know). Ah, yes, the wandering and filling of time. That too is familiar.
Edgar and Khin Myo are both lonely. I’m thankful Edgar did not “make a move.” I keep thinking about Katherine. She’s home. At this point she might just be receiving Edgar’s first letters from when he arrived in Burma. What is she thinking? What is she wondering?
Chapter 17 made me smiling knowingly . . . when we as outsiders are pulled into a larger plot we are not actually sure we want to be pulled into. Dr. C writes to Edgar, “All I ask of you is to select and play a piece that will move the Prince with emotions of friendship, to convince him of the good intentions of our proposals.” All I ask. Famous last words, eh.
We are nearing the end of this post, but let’s continue in the comments. Before we end for today, remember that five more copies of Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul and Margaret Feinberg’s Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey will be given to you (possibly!) if you leave a comment.
If you haven’t read The Piano Tuner, have you had any “all I ask” situations? Or found life and ministry to be different than the official reports?? Anything really, just comment!
February 6: Chapters 1-6
February 13: Chapters 7-11
February 20: Chapters 12-17
February 27: Chapters 18-24 (Why am I nervous for the ending?)