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Monday, April 13, 2015

Why write about sad stuff?

A good friend read an early version of Infinite Sum and asked why I was still writing about the sad stuff. For those who haven't read Divide by Zero, it tells a story of how abuse affects a small-town community. Infinite Sum makes it all that bit more personal by looking at how it affected an individual within that community. So yea, it's sad stuff. And my reviews in this post will all be related to sad stuff of one sort or another. So... why write sad stuff, and why do people read sad stuff?

I guess one answer might be because sad stories usually end well--they remind us that even when our lives are at their darkest, there's still hope. Maybe there's a misery-loves-company aspect to it too--when we're down and out, it's helpful, in a down-and-out sort of way, to know somebody out there's worse off than we are. And maybe it's because sad stuff wakens up our emotions. Shadows help us see the light. Darkness blown away reveals life's colors. And hiding our face in a book, like a child playing hide-and-go-seek, means the whole world looks so much more enticing and delightful when we let it back in.

Anyway, that's my two pennorth, and here are some sad books. Choose your coffee from the rating, and remember, it's for flavor, not quality.

First is Girl, by Robert N. Chan, a dark, haunting novel of an abused girl overcoming mythical odds as she reinvents herself. Rising up, torn down, and rising up again, she mirrors a world of wounded people before she finally accepts herself as maybe worthy of a name. Drink some rich, elegant, complex four-star coffee with this darkly elegant complex tale.

Another dark, complex modern-day novel is Under the Channel, by Gilles Petel, a very French novel with that feel of noir crossed with myth and modernity. Somebody dies on a train under the channel. A French detective takes a walk in the dead man's shoes to learn why he died. And the fragile structures of relationships fall apart. It's an elegant tale, deserving another four-star elegant coffee.

Harbour Falls, by S. R. Grey, is a small-town American romantic mystery/suspense novel set on the coast of North Maine. The romance is a lot more conventional (less French perhaps?) than in Under the Channel, and mystery plays a more obvious part. Locations are pleasingly evocative, and characters humanly annoying, but there's plenty of murder and death to darken the tale. Enjoy with a bold, dark intense five-star coffee.

Small Town Trouble, by Jean Erhardt, looks at death in a small American town as well - more murder, more mystery and suspense, and more romance as the young woman determined to solve the crime mourns her absent married lover and falls anew for her girlfriend from high school. Lots of inner dialog again - maybe small-town heroes like to really wrap their minds around their sad stuff. It's an interesting mix of humor and scares, best enjoyed with some more bold dark five-star coffee.

But adults aren't the only ones who read mildly sad fiction. What about kids? They deal with everyday sorrows in their everyday lives as well, so here's a review of a children's book, Gianna the Great, by Becky Villareal. A young girl, unsure of where she fits into the world, joins a history club and discovers genealogy. Okay, it's not particularly sad, but that sense of not belonging is one most of us can relate to. Enjoy with tale with a well-balanced smooth cup of coffee (but I wish it was longer!).


Jean H. said...

I like your explanations for why we read sad stories. Especially resonant was your explanation that there is usually hope at the end.

Sheila Deeth said...

Interesting - Dan Berne mentioned a need for hope in the ending of a novel didn't he?