I started with Amanda Eyre Ward’s book Forgive Me. Sadly, I didn’t really get it, but that happens occasionally. I enjoy her writing and story-telling. But when the names changed at the end…she lost me. Once again, I’m sure that was done to make some sort of metaphoric point, but I didn’t get it.
Next I read Sarah Willis’s A Good Distance. More good writing and story-telling ability…but (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) for one thing, after being hammered about the heroine in my current WIP not having a clearly defined goal, I had to wonder about the heroine in A Good Distance. She’s determined to keep her Alzheimer’s-ridden mother with her and to take care of her (at the potential expense of destroying her own marriage and family) and it was hard for me as a reader to understand why. It doesn’t seem like a noble goal when clearly the mother would have been much better off in a nursing home. In fact, it seemed like a selfish goal, since the daughter was doing it to supposedly atone for her own mistreatment of her mother in years past. (So a character’s goal doesn’t have to be noble, there just has to be a goal, right?) If the writing and story are good enough, I’ll keep reading, so I did. But by the end I felt tricked (again—I hate it when authors do this). The story the daughter made up about what happened with her mother and why she ran away as a teenager was not true. I’m not sophisticated enough to realize when an author or a character is lying to me. Sort of pisses me off. But again, if the author can make you understand why her character lies to the reader and to herself, she can make it work. And this author does.
Would I read more by Amanda Eyre Ward and Sarah Willis? Yes, definitely. Mine is just one subjective opinion and like I said, I’m a sucker for good writing and story-telling.
Then I started Pablo Tusset’s The Best Thing That Can Happen to a Croissant. Remember I said I was branching out, reading books by male authors. This one was translated from the original Spanish. It’s a 400 and something page book and I got about a third of the way through before I put it down. To say the story moves slowly is an understatement. It inches along at a snail’s pace, stopping and starting while the main character (also named Pablo) drinks at his favorite bar, smokes several joints in a row, and outlines his dreams in vivid detail. His dreams, as far as I can tell, have absolutely no impact on the story itself, so why they’re in there is beyond me. B-o-r-i-n-g. Yes, there is a plot of sorts, but my goodness it’s taking forever to develop and he’s taking forever to pursue it. Life is too short! I easily skimmed over sections (especially the dreams) searching for the next relevant part. I’m sure this is the author’s style, that slow pace, but it’s hard for me to make that adjustment.
There was something sort of endearing yet mildly unlikeable about the character of Pablo. He’s the black sheep of his family, yet massively aware of his shortcomings and personality deficiencies. Can you say flawed character?
I have a couple of days before my books go back, so maybe I’ll pick up Croissant again, but doubt I’ll finish it because the author has failed to make me care about what happens next. Mostly because what happens next will take fifty or more pages to get to.
I picked up Deborah Raney’s A Nest of Sparrows, which I should have realized is a Christian sort of romance story. There are romantic elements in it, I should say, but mostly it’s about a man whose fiancée dies and his struggle to gain custody of her three children.
As a general rule, I don’t read Christian novels. To me, they always seem like they’re preaching to the choir. If you’re already a believer, why do you need to read about other believer’s struggles? The end result is always the same: God’s will is done, even though we don’t understand His ways. You just have to believe He has a plan and whatever happens is part of that. True believers do actually believe this.
I find many of these types of novels to be unrealistic which probably says more about my lifestyle and the people I interact with than it does about anything the author wrote. In our contemporary society, it’s hard to buy a story where two single unattached adults who dated for two years, who are engaged to be married, haven’t gone beyond a chaste kiss or embrace here and there. No, the author doesn’t state this, but that’s what I assume…because they’re “Christians.” And then…a man who will wait two years for a woman he hardly knows. I guess this happens in real life. Probably all the time. Why I find it hard to buy in a work of fiction, I don’t know.
Again, there were sections I skimmed because gosh there was a lot of internal monologue with more than one character. Soul searching, I guess. Some of the character’s decisions seemed naïve to the point of unbelievablility, but the setting is Kansas and these aren’t terribly sophisticated people. But who doesn’t know that you can’t just take somebody else’s kids into your home and ignore the fact that you are not their legal guardian, especially when you aren’t even related to them? This I found hard to buy and Wade’s reasons for not pursuing legal guardianship before he’s forced to just seemed stupid in the extreme.
The other extremely stupid thing I found hard to buy was when Sophie gets beat up. She knows who did it and why, but she refuses to file a police report. Maybe that goes more to motivation than anything else. It isn’t adequately explained. Both she and Wade are motivated by fear. Sophie’s not a believer at the outset, so her fear I can sort of understand. But Wade goes along believing God will do right by him and the kids and seems accepting of God’s will, so why he lets fear rule him, I don’t know. Except we all do that, I guess. Because we’re human. Well, there you go. I just answered my own question. It’s hard to trust God a hundred percent, isn’t it?
Deborah Raney supplies some excellent twists along the way, especially the ending.
When I said I was branching out reading a male author, I also branched out reading a Christian novel. Neither are exactly my cup of tea, but they both broadened my horizons.