For a long time now, our house has been the site of Abandoned Book Syndrome (ABS, if you're feeling compelled to create acronyms, as I am) because let's face it: sometimes things get a little too intense. It started with Little Women, when Diana would read all the way up to when Beth died, then stop, put it down, and begin it again. Many, many times. As far as I knew, she never did make it all the way through, and it's just not her type of book anymore.
I've wondered, sure, if I should discourage ABS. These are, after all, fictional worlds. There must be something to be said for being able to push through troubling things to see what's on the other side. It's not a pretty world, kids, but if you start something by God you should finish it! For some reason or other!
But then I think, who the hell wants someone messing in that most joyously private of all worlds, reading a book? So what if they have a different way of reading things? So what if they are (that dread word) sensitive? I'm too chicken to watch many television programs all the way through. That's not a character flaw, is it? Or if it is, it's not a terrible character flaw, right? RIGHT?
Then came this next book, which I, as usual, found in a box on the street on the way to the grocery store. But hey, it had a Newberry Medal! How freaky could it be?
Um, plenty freaky.
Now here's where you might take a moment to wonder how I, a putative children's book blogger, can never have heard of this book which is clearly a big major deal. Answer: I have no freaking idea how I have missed this. But here's what I can tell you: it's good. It's crazy. It's…intense.
It deals with (and may God and everyone forgive me for this next phrase) what it means to be human. It makes the reader think about how we deal with feelings, even painful ones. Is the pain of life compensated for by its pleasures? What does it mean to be an individual, to love someone, to care for one another, to fit in? What is right?
A few days after I brought it home, I found Diana with it on the couch. She'd tossed it onto the coffee table, and I thought I recognized the telltale symptoms of ABS. I hadn't read it at that point. I looked over at it. "Any good?"
"Yeah. It's sad."
"Yeah? How sad?"
"There's this part where they let a baby die because he's one of a pair of twins, and they don't let there be twins."
"Wow." We both looked at the book, lying there on the table.
"It was really upsetting," she said.
"So you stopped reading it, huh."
"No," she looked over at me, surprised. "I just finished it. It's just sad, that's all."
And there it was. That weird thing of being a parent, where you know you're in a situation that by its nature is constantly changing, and not just that but is finite. But then all of sudden things change, or they end, and it still shocks you somehow. And you're living with someone you sort of know, but don't really know at all, someone totally different. And you still don't know how it's going to turn out. But these changes? They are amazing.