Jul 24, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 6

Day 6: A Book That Makes You Sad

Yesterday I stated that all reading makes me happy - content. It was a different take than what Josh thought of for his pick and it goes to show that every reader, even when it's the same book, will come away with different feelings, different thoughts, and different meanings. No two readers are alike, just as no two snowflakes are alike. Books come in different shapes, sizes, genres, word counts, illustrations, text, and so on and so forth. Which is why publishers strive so hard to find books that are unique, books that bring in new perspectives, books that create dialogue, and books that add depth to critical thinking. Any book can do that as long as the various elements of the text fit together well. But even then, no publisher can fully predict how a book's content will affect individual readers.

For me, I've never experienced true sadness from reading a book. Sad is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "affected with or expressive of grief or unhappiness." I've never closed or ended a book feeling truly sad. Sure, I've read books where the content is considered to be a sad story, but I can't recall reading any that have created the emotion fully in me after finishing the book. I define "a book that makes me feel sad" as one that is wonderfully written and one that I can empathize with the character's emotions during the book, but when finished I am not left feeling sad, but rather, content and pensive over the emotions within the book.

I'm not an outwardly emotional person generally, but there are a few things that automatically make me tear up: A Soldier's homecoming, the unity of a community when tragedy occurs (not that I want tragedy to occur, but the outright unity that comes after tragedy shows the beautiful side of human nature), and a child who experiences a terrible loss. To this end, my choice for today is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Foer hit the nail on the head with this book. It's beautiful and terribly sad all at the same time. I don't know if the author personally had experienced loss during the 9/11 attacks, but he did a hell of a job putting into perspective the immeasurable loss experienced, the feeling of chaos, and the need to keep a piece of what was lost forever in our hearts. "…the renter reminded me that just because you bury something, you don't really bury it." I adore this book for capturing true human nature in its most raw form, and the pure emotion one experiences when reading it.


“Sometimes you can just say things and it’s like a bomb that blows all your clothes off and suddenly there you are naked. I don't know if it’s disgusting or beautiful.” -Victor Lodato

Now this is more like it.

Sad books are a certain forte of mine. They make the most profound emotional impact, which is definitely what I look for in a novel. Additionally, I find that a book that makes me sad is able to fill me with the distinct feeling that accompanies deep, affectionate love. That crucifying, heart-blinding sort of love that happens just every-so-often and is oh-so-terrifyingly-wonderful.

That is how a Book-That-Makes-You-Sad feels to me.

I have two choices today--cheating, I know--but choosing between the two was too difficult...so I didn't.

Yesterday, I finished Victoria Gonzales Peña's The Sad Passions. Tragic, Tragic, Tragic. Told from alternating perspectives of five women, Peña's novel recounts four daughters' experiences living with an unstable mother, wandering father, and a large, sweltering supporting cast of misfits. The fifth perspective comes from Claudia, the incoherent mother, and it's these sections that I think Peña delivers her strongest work. Her capacity for instability is nightmarish. If you're looking for light-hearted, you've opened the wrong book.

My second choice is Victor Lodato's Mathilda Savitch. This was my favorite book in 2011. I have heard people criticize this book because the main character doesn't change, there's no progression. But, last time I checked, eleven-year-old girls do not change overnight. They experience, they learn, they forget, and they repeat. 

And Mathilda is no exception. 

Lodato has an uncanny gift for voice, and that makes Mathilda's tragic, heavy-hearted one-liners even more profound. Never have I been so enthralled with a child's narration. I cannot stress enough how highly I would recommend this book.

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