I just tried to read a novel by a very successful Christian author and failed. This is a well-respected writer who has published dozens of novels and has an MA in English. She’s well-respected and apparently beloved of her readers. I could NOT make myself read her novel. The summary sounded like something I’d love, but I found her prose to be so purple I couldn’t continue. No, not purple, chartreuse. I won’t give a name or title, my opinion is just as subjective as the publishing industry and I won’t criticize by name. But here’s one line: “Her moist eyes brightened like bits of blue sky in a lined face drawn with anxiety.” At the very least this shatters the adjective rule. BUT my opinion doesn’t matter much. The opinion of agents, editors and ultimately readers is what matters. They love this author’s stories. She is reaching readers with a Christian message. Taste is subjective. Writing is subjective. Hopefully I’ll find the group that appreciates mine.
I still don’t have an e-reader, but I did get my mother a Kindle for her birthday (today–Happy Birthday, mom!). I have, like many book lovers, hesitated over this mechanized take on reading. But I will now confess, after loading books on mom’s and trying it out, they’re pretty fantastic. Easy to load, easy to read and oh-so-easy to transport an entire library wherever you go. I will NEVER give up real books and I will ALWAYS treasure certain books that sit on my shelves, but I will grudgingly admit that e-readers are a great invention. Books are dead, long live books.
Jim and I attended a fundraiser for Carolina Day School and the Literacy Council of Buncombe County this week. It was a reception for and talk by Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian (2005) and The Swan Thieves (2010). The Historian was the first debut novel to ever make it to the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list in its first week. It is the fastest selling debut novel ever. I will confess I was more interested in meeting a hugely successful author than I was in supporting either non-profit agency. But after the event I realized that I should have been much more interested in supporting learning and reading than I was in schmoozing. Did you know that 43% of adult Americans read at or below the most basic reading level? And that among industrialized nations, the US is FIFTH in literacy skills? I was astonished. I read and write every day. I take it utterly for granted. Harper Lee said, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” If you can read, read The Historian, it’s delightfully eerie and although it’s lengthy, it will hold you. And if you can read, find out how you can help someone who can’t, learn how. The Literacy Council.
I finished the second of two books I didn’t think I’d like yesterday. And I liked them both. “North River” by Pete Hamill is about a doctor in Depression-era New York who comes home one day to find his daughter has abandoned her child on his doorstep. The doctor is haunted by the disappearance of his wife and his horrible memories of the recent World War. He’s also threatened by what amounts to the local mob. I didn’t think this sounded particularly cheerful. But it’s actually a lovely, sweet story with charming characters and a just-right ending. I really liked it and would highly recommend it. The second book I thought I would like initially. It’s “The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters” by Elisabeth Robinson. After reading the title and the jacket I was very interested. Then I flipped the book open and realized it’s entirely composed of letters, notes, memos and e-mails from the main character to the people in her life. Yuck. How good could that be? Turns out it was pretty great. And I have to admire a writer who can develop strong characters that we only meet through another character’s point of view. Bravo! It’s about a woman who’s trying to produce a major movie while her sister is battling leukemia. Fun Hollywood insights and poignant family scenes. Yummy! Ironically, both of these books were sent to me by my mother. You know, the […]
Marisa de los Santos’ writing in “Belong to Me” is absolutely gorgeous–lush even. And the story is compelling, though you’ve probably read similar stories before. At times the telling is a tad overwrought, but ultimately I cared about the characters, wanted them to work things out and was pleased with the strong characterizations. While the book tends toward the literary, it’s also an entertaining story that moves at a decent pace. In the end it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read that I hated to see come to an end. And yes, Piper started as my least favorite character and by the end she was the one I would most like to spend time with. I can often tell that what I’m reading affects how I’m writing. Which is okay as long as I don’t let it change my voice or overall style. “Belong to Me” helped me step my descriptions and emotions up a notch. Now all I have to do is hold onto that as I move on to other books that are perhaps not quite so beautifully written . . .
Have you ever read a book and realized that you just didn’t like the main character? I recently read “Gods in Alabama” by Joshilyn Jackson and I appreciated her ability, her craft and her style, but I did not like Lena. And although I found her boyfriend Burr likeable, it annoyed me that he put up with Lena’s nonsense. The story was great–a mystery that unraveled slowly and unexpectedly even though, at one point, I thought I had it all figured out. I finished the book, but I’m not sure I’ll read the two that follow it. On the other hand, it can sometimes be delcious to not like a character. In Ron Rash’s novel “Serena” the title character is awful–but spectacularly, wonderfully so. I wanted to see her punished, but her awfulness was thrilling to me. I could hardly put the book down because I couldn’t wait to see what unbelievable thing she would do next. I liked how unlikeable Serena was. Q4U – Have you ever stopped reading a book because you didn’t like or care about the characters? Have you finished a book in spite of not liking the characters? How important are likeable characters to you?
I just finished “Walking on Broken Glass” by Christa Allan and enjoyed it immensely. It took me a little while to get into the book, because the main character, Leah, is an alcoholic who has decided to admit herself to rehab. I wasn’t sure I could relate. But pretty quickly I began to relate to Leah in terms of her struggle to build balanced relationships with friends and family; her questioning of God and why He let’s bad things happen; and the ongoing process of learning who she is. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I really liked the way this book ends. It’s a good ending, it just doesn’t tie everything up in a neat package. You know, like life! You can visit Christa’s website at christaallan.com