I’m sometimes hasty, when it comes to deciding whether or not to finish reading a book. Bad grammar gets me every time–I don’t care how good the story is, if it reads like it was written by someone without benefit of at least a seventh grade education, I am not going to torture myself to finish it.
Yeah, I’m a snob like that.
What’s harder, is when the writing is good–really good–and I don’t like a character. That happened to me this week. I sat down with a book (not naming names) and the writing was fantastic. Full of imagery and precision, no superfluous words. The kind of writing that makes me fall in love–with the writer. Those writers, they enchant you, bewitch you, make you believe in their world so very clearly that you want to cry when you finish the book and you realize it wasn’t real to anyone but you and that brave, wonderful writer who opened up your soul and poured those words into it.
I love those writers with a passion, and live for finding books that make me feel that way. So I found this book and I fell in love with the writer, all while falling into utter exasperation and patent dislike of the heroine. Ooh, this writer was skilled, but the heroine was the kind of woman I can’t relate to at all. By the time I got maybe a quarter of the way into the story, I downright hated her. I hated the way she dressed and the way she thought. I hated the decisions she made about everything from what to eat and who to date all the way up to how she prepared the gross foods she ate and seduced the wrong man, the man who would never make her happy.
I considered giving up. I didn’t care for this character, and my dislike of her almost overpowered my enjoyment of the writer. Hell, this writer’s amazing skills were what made me dislike the character so much in the first place. So I took a leap of faith. I decided to trust this author, because she was pushing my buttons so well.
And then, a character was introduced who I liked and admired–the hero. I liked him so much, I kept reading just to fall a little more in love with him. I scoffed at the idea that the heroine who I hated might ever become the person he deserved. But I started to root for her. Because I knew that’s where the book was headed, and I wanted him to be happy.
And slowly, so slowly, she changed. She grew. She became the kind of woman with whom I would want to spend time. I started to see her as I might a girlfriend or sister. I started appreciating parts of her character as she emerged from her cocoon, becoming a fascinating woman. The more she changed, the more her story became important to me. Sometimes, I got angry with her, upset about a choice she made. But I started applauding her for standing by those bad choices as firmly as she did the good choices.
And then, finally, glory hallelujah, hero and heroine were both at the right place in life to where they suited each other perfectly. She had become a strong, confident, powerful character who compelled me to want her happiness. He was still the generous, beautiful man who had enchanted me from his introduction, but his flaws were also revealed over the story arc. No longer was she becoming worthy of him, he needed to become worthy of her. And I wanted them for each other, so fiercely, so vehemently, that I wanted to jump for joy when it happened.
And then, when I was so enchanted with them, the book ended and I shouted “That can’t be the end! Are you freaking kidding me?!”
My husband looked up from his laptop and said “Wow, you really didn’t like that book did you? Why did you keep reading?”
“I wanted to give it a chance. And then I didn’t want it to end.”
He may never understand why I kept reading, but he nodded at that last bit. He knew what I look like when I’m in love.
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