|In the interest of fairness, I decided I should try reading a few things out of my usual comfort zone--literary fiction, memoir, creative nonfiction (you know, serious stuff)--and give something else a chance. So I picked up a mystery and a mystery-thriller by two well-known and multiple award-winning authors...who will remain anonymous.|
I finished the first one and found it very well written with plenty of plot twists and authentic characters. Still, it left me feeling, meh...
I plunged into the second one, the thriller, with high expectations. It, too, was well-written. But, again, the multiple plot lines, intertwined characters, and rising tension left me feeling: so what? I got to within twenty pages of the ending...and I simply set it aside. I just didn't care how it ended after all that. Really??
Questioning my sanity, I then turned back to literary fiction with Kathryn Craft's newest release, "The Far End of Happy", a literary novel that fictionalizes a painful episode in her own life, a heartbreaking suicide standoff with her husband.
I know the real story behind it because she has shared it in several of her workshops. She wept when she talked about it, and we wept along with her. This book was a long time coming.
So, this is the thing. Craft nailed the experience of every woman who has ever struggled to maintain a semblance of normalcy for her children as the victim of an addicted spouse. In this story, the dreaded "dual diagnosis" was bipolar disorder complicated by alcohol addiction that proved to be a deadly combination. In real life, the reader can totally identify with the inner dialogue of the protagonist. Her courage and fortitude are enviable. The characters who interact with her during the crisis are believable, and the tension rises little by little all the way through the story until--BAM--it happens.
So what was missing for me in the mysteries? There was plenty of action and tension, good crisp dialogue, and rapid pacing, but what I missed was the inner dialogue expressing emotion and reaction--fear, confusion, grief (people were murdered, after all), and betrayal--emotions I might have identified with had they been expressed. As it was I couldn't identify with the characters. Nothing felt familiar.
The mysteries will soon go off to a book sale, while I re-read "The Far End of Happy."
A round of deep appreciation goes out to Kathryn Craft for her courage, perseverance, and verity. Thank you!
"I am not what happened to me.
I am what I choose to become."
Please excuse the appearance of this post. Blogger is being oppositional-defiant this week, and there's nothing I can do to fix it. Thanks.