Sunday, September 02, 2007

One Little Secret--Redux

I've been thinking more about Allison Bottke's novel, One Little Secret. Niki was unhappy that I gave the book a negative review. Her take is that, having accepted a free novel (thereby agreeing to promote it on my blog), I owe the author a positive review. I disagree with that. In fact, some books that have had multitudes of extremely negative reviews have gone on to become very well known, sometimes BECAUSE of the negativity surrounding it. So I don't think that one little blog in the middle of nowhere is going to derail whatever momentum Allison has found with her novel.

Having said that, I re-read my entry and discover that, in truth, I said nothing positive about the book at all. Was it really because I hated every sentence? No. The plot is quite tight, and Allison did a fine job on pacing and story-telling. If you enjoy novels about glamorous SoCal lifestyles and famous (well-dressed!) people, novels about women who rocket to musical fame from housewife to a well-heeled lawyer, then you may enjoy this novel. I've read drivel, and this is NOT it.

It just isn't my cup of tea. Well, no, I don't drink tea. Give me a mocha any time. But I digress.

Fiorinda, who also commented on that post, and I discussed via chat what it is that makes us like the novels we do. Some women love romance novels; some rarely--if ever--read one. Many women love rags-to-riches stories (or riches-to-greater-riches stories like One Little Secret). Many read chick lit. Some prefer historicals. Most seem to love contemporary. Some like suspense. And some of us love fantasy.

Why? Why are we wired this way? Do we choose our reading path, or does it choose us? If you know the answer to that, please let me know.

I've tried to do a bit of analyzing, which is never my strong point, in an effort to find out why I had such a strong reaction to Allison's novel.

Fiorinda mentioned that, to her, One Little Secretdid not sound like a fairy tale. It seemed more like The American Dream.

So, speaking of dreams, if you could have anything you wanted here in this finite life, what would it be? I'm sure many folk could identify with the main character of OLS in a desire for fame and wealth. When I picture the *perfect life* for me, I see a cabin in the woods beside a little lake or maybe a creek. It's not super tiny, but it's a long way from huge. The deer, elk and moose come to drink at my little beach (see the canoe there, ready for a paddle under the full moon?) We have a little garden and orchard that the deer and coons magically leave alone. We get out to town maybe a couple times a month, going for groceries, a great meal out, and any needed supplies. Our kids and grandkids live nearby, walking softly on the land.

Am I back in the 1800s? Not hardly. See the solar panels on the roof? Hear the generator powered from the little water wheel back on the creek? Look closer. See me sitting on the verandah of the cabin, mug of mocha in hand? I'm surfing the internet on my laptop while the morning sun warms the air and releases the scent of the roses.

What will I do today? Well, after writing the next chapter of the novel my publishers--and readers--eagerly await, I'll work with my daughter to get a gourmet meal together for the tourists who've come to our sanctuary--who've come to watch our birds, to paddle our lake and rivers, to watch our moose.

Is there more to my dream? Oh, yes, I could go on and on. But the point is, do you see how far my dream is from the glitz-and-glam of SoCal kind of dream? It's not that I don't have dreams worth pursuing. They're just different from many folks'.

So why do I read fantasy novels? Why do I prefer them over most contemporary fare? I guess for starters, they're more likely to take place in a locale closer to my personal dream--as would historicals, I suppose.

In a fantasy novel, the women have a purpose other than keeping fashion designers in business. They are real, down to earth. They have meaningful jobs to do, important roles to play in their little worlds. They may be skilled enough to pick up a sword and run the bad guy through. Or maybe not so skilled, but a cast iron frying pan in the hand of a determined woman can do wonders. There is always an element that magnifies or changes something from our world, something not necessarily magical, but fantastical. Something that stretches and morphs our imaginations, throws light on an issue so that when the reader is back in her OWN little world, the gleam is still there. A little takeaway prize like the trinket at the bottom of a CrackerJack box. The CrackerJacks--story--were delightful in their own right, but the prize, although small, is something that lasts a little longer, something to take out, turn over, and play with. Something to consider.

Why do you like to read what you do? I'd love to know.


fiorinda said...

Please reserve the cabin next door for my husband and I. Your dream sounds much like my own. Your thoughts on why you like to read fantasy definitely echo my own thoughts. One of the emails I tried to send you was a long sort of rant about why I don't like some genres fiction. I'll try to send it again.

I find I am no longer satisfied with merely being entertained when I read a novel. I want to find some truth I've never thought of, or something that stirs my heart closer to God. Some may think that fiction cannot accomplish this, but I think it can.

Hanna said...

mmm, okay I can live nearby your cabin, mine might be closer to the ocean and it will have a studio and a kiln for all the amazing ceramics I'll make. Also, I don't have a cabin, we run a camp.

Mmmm, I read a lot of different genres depending on my mood, but 90% of them are escapist in one way or another...the other 10% are philosophical...and sometimes depressing. I don't know why I read those...

Karenee said...

I love books that make me think. I also love books that permit me a positive outlook on life, even if the story is extremely depressing.

Humor--real-ish people/beings dealing with the character issues we all face, even if in a more normal way--failure--desire to do good--honor or the lack thereof and consequences--other world views, so I can say, "I don't believe that and this is why."

Even if a plot is done to death and I can predict every stage all the way through, if the characters are well done I will enjoy it.

Books I can't read?
-Erotica and most romance novels because they makes me dissatisfied and can easily brain-wash me into thinking it's possible for men and women to treat each other "that way" and still somehow be "in love" as if attraction was the be all and end all of a relationship.
-Books that refuse to have any positive outlook whatsoever. They are so hopeless and lost that I cannot bear it.
-True-ish stories of things I already have nightmares about like abused women and children.