Picky Reader – 10


The Middle Ages by Jennie Fields is the kind of book I like.  It’s a real story about a middle-aged woman sort of beaten up by life who finds love again with a college boyfriend.  Her uncertainty about the possibility of ever being happy again, of ever finding real love again haunts the story, but if you’re a woman, or a man I suppose, of a certain age, you’ll be able to relate.  You look at half or more of your life gone and the love you may have squandered on those undeserving of it and wonder what’s left.  Who’s left for you to ever love?

While reading The Middle Ages I was sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop, but this is why I prefer women authors.  If Nicholas Sparks had written this book, or a book similar in theme, which I believe he has, after telling you this wonderful story, after letting these two people find love again, he’d have killed one of them off.  Which is why I don’t read his books.  I’ve watched a couple of the movies adapted from his books and I always wonder why he’s so fascinated with death.  Why does he want his characters to be so miserable at the end?  Why does he want to make his readers cry? 

I dislike authors in any genre who set out to manipulate the readers’ emotions.  If you’re going to get emotional reading a book, then it should come from the story and the characters themselves, not because the author manipulated the story so you would feel a certain emotion.  And why, if you’re setting out to make a reader feel a certain emotion, would you want the emotion they feel to be sadness?

I will always prefer happy endings and I don’t care if I’m giving away the end of Jennie Fields’ book by telling you the important characters are still alive in the end.  If I want to cry or look at misery I can turn on the news any night of the week.  I can go online and view starving children in refugee camps on the other side of the world.  We are surrounded by sadness and cruelty.  I read fiction to escape from that.  So thank you Jennie Fields for letting me do that for a little while.  Thanks for writing a book about a woman who is brave enough and hopeful enough to choose a chance at love over staying safe but alone.

 I found Sitting Practice by Caroline Adderson oddly compelling.  When I finished it I had to think about it.  It isn’t just the story of newlyweds involved in a car accident which leaves the wife a paraplegic.  I do believe what the author is trying to convey is that it doesn’t take an accident to cause paralysis of any kind.  Through the other characters she explores the ways in which we are all paralyzed emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.  Frankly, I loved the triumphant ending.

I thoroughly enjoyed Flint’s Law by Paul Eddy.  It came as close as any book ever does to one I couldn’t put down.  I didn’t want to put it down because I enjoyed following his protagonist, Grace Flint, on quite a merry transcontinental chase as she tracks a notorious international money launderer.  Mr. Eddy successfully makes a complex plot easy to understand and follow.  Not only that, he makes you want to follow it.  You can’t always tell the good guys from the bad guys, but that’s the way it is in reality as well as fiction.  In some ways I was reminded of Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity, probably because of the complexity of the plot which a skilled author can allow a reader to navigate without getting lost.  I think I must now go back and read his first work of fiction entitled Flint.  There are some genres where male authors excel.  Spy thrillerdom is apparently one of them.  After a bit of online research I discovered there are three books featuring the Grace Flint character, but that this talented author died a couple of years ago.

Moon Women by Pamela Duncan is described as “a mesmerizing tale of family and love, revelation and forgiveness.”  It is also (supposedly) “deeply wrought, affecting…a resounding portrait of three generations of remarkable women…”  These words are taken from the inside of the book jacket, so you can see why I decided to give it a try.  I’ve got about 75 pages left to finish and I’ve decided not to bother.

It occurs to me that there is something worse than a book that bores me.  It’s one I feel indifferent about it.  By page one hundred ninety-five I should be deeply involved, shouldn’t I?  Dying to get to the end to see how it concludes?  But the truth is I just don’t care one way or the other about the Moon women.  I haven’t found any of them particularly appealing, certainly not mesmerizing and only borderline interesting.  There’s nothing wrong with the writing, certainly, if you can get past the grammar of the narrative, which I suppose is written to reflect the way they speak (using “was” instead of “were” for example).  Miss Duncan has won awards for writing about Appalachian life.  It isn’t that she can’t write or tell a story.  But this isn’t a story I care about.  It moves fairly slowly, but it isn’t the pacing that’s bothering me.  It’s that there’s nothing of interest (to me) going on.  The characters move from day to day to day and at this point I just want to slap somebody and yell, “Do something!”  But nothing’s happening and since I don’t care all that much about any of these characters, this book’s going back to the library unfinished.  I thought about flipping through it to see how it ends, but I don’t care enough about it to even do that.  I’m sorry, Miss Duncan.  I’m sure many readers have loved your stories.  I’m just not one of them.  I begin to see why literary agents and editors use “I didn’t connect with your characters” in rejection letters.

As an aside, I did learn something about Appalachia.  This book takes place in an area of North Carolina I’ve visited in the past.  I had no idea it was considered part of Appalachia, so I looked up Appalachia online.  There are something like 29 counties in North Carolina that are part of it (as well as areas of several other states which we should all know from elementary school geography/social studies classes).


  1. Jennie Fields

    Thanks Barb! Always nice to know people are enjoying my books! If you liked The Middle Ages, you may like my earlier book “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” I have a new book coming out next year from Viking, based on the life of Edith Wharton. The title is the “Age of Ecstasy.” Happy reading and writing!

  2. barbmeyers

    It’s always nice when the author sees something I wrote about her book and comments. I definitely plan to read more by Jennie Fields. I’m hooked.

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