On Sad Books

For all my crowing about One Hundred Spaghetti Strings, I had never had Chestnut read it. It's funny, because when Jen was working on it, I kept thinking about how great it would be for Chestnut—food, and family drama, and love. All of these are things that she's really interested in, she's that sort of reader. Sara Plain and Tall, for instance, was incredibly important to her.

But that was back in the day. She's 15 now, and she reads newspapers and adult novels and complicated philosophers. She reads books on education policy and gets really angry, and she reads sophisticated science fiction (Stephen Baxter FTW!) and is moved. It seemed like the time for the moving, realistic middle grade novel had passed her by, just because it takes too long for books to be published, and too short for kids to grow up.

But I got my copy at a reading, and I brought it home, and I said (diffidently, I swear it), "You might like this, it's by a friend of mine, you know her, she's—."

"Fine, whatever." It did not get picked up in that moment.

But canny parent that I am, I left it there on the coffee table, knowing people forget to bring things with them, and are compulsive readers, and will likely pick up any book that is at hand. And so she did.

I saw her reading it on and off through the day, and that evening when friends came over for drinks (our friends, don't worry, not hers) she skulked upstairs without even saying much of a hello. And I thought, "Eh, she's 15, that's how it goes."

Except it turns out that she wasn't being 15 exactly. She was crying—over Steffy (the book's heroine), over how families are supposed to work in a certain way, and sometimes they don't. Just over a sad book. Like one does.

She told me all this the next day, when we were getting ready to head out of town. "It was so good, but so sad."


And then as we were packing, she said, "Do you have any other really sad books? I want to read one. Do you ever think about how sometimes reading something sad, and being sad, feels like it fixes something inside you?"

I do think about that. I think about that now.

2 thoughts on “On Sad Books

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