3.04.2010

Currently Reading: The Wednesday Letters

Malcolm and his high school rat pack had spent many hours atop Woodstock Tower. It offered a unique, panoramic view of northern Virginia. To the west, from the one-time fire observation station, visitors saw Woodstock and the Seven Bends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. To the east, if the air was crisp and clear, one could see Fort Valley and Massanutten Mountain. The clearest of days offered glimpses of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He made a mental note to return to the tower during the daylight to enjoy the view.

Malcolm shined his flashlight over the metal roof and smiled at the graffiti. Some was new; some was familiar. He saw his own handwriting still scrawled on one of the support poles in red Sharpie: I LOVE RJ.

Author: Jason F. Wright

Synopsis: Jack Cooper wrote a letter to his wife, Laurel, every Wednesday throughout their marriage. After Jack and Laurel die in each others' arms, their three children gather for the funeral and discover the letters. More than just messages of love, the letters contain a very painful family secret--and all three of the children, especially Malcolm, find their lives permanently altered through the news and through the final notes directed at each of them.

Notes: I grew up on Christian genre fiction--the Winslow books, Janette Oke's work, various positive-themed teen books like Dawn's Diamond Defense and Pounding Hooves, etc. This book fits right into that tradition: safe to read, solid message, lots of hope and forgiveness.

Less positive is my own attitude: while I regret giving away my copy of DDD because I remember really liking it, and I still have Pounding Hooves, my patience for most inspirational fiction--evangelical or otherwise--has gone a bit thin. I got hold of Pride and Prejudice in my late teens and never looked back; then I met Harry Potter and discovered what really makes a story inspiring.

As for The Wednesday Letters: The premise made me think of the movie Fireproof, but the story wound up being more about the Coopers' son Malcolm. I really, really liked Malcolm and the girl he loves--at the beginning of the book. By the end, both of them were harder for me to believe; Malcolm because I didn't quite buy some of his temper tantrums, Rain because I never got a sense for why she even bothered with Nathan when she clearly had so much affection for her ex-boyfriend.

Reading this book also made me determined to go and remove as much of the crying as I can from my own. It is very hard to write a good crying scene. The protagonist, I think, shouldn't generally shed a tear unless the reader also has a pretty solid lump in their throat (exceptions may be made, perhaps, for angry crying.)

It wasn't a bad book, though; I got a good evening's read out of it. If inspiration is your thing, then by all means, enjoy. I'm sure you'll find it worthwhile.

P.S. If you're from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, you might enjoy the book just for the local references.

3 comments:

  1. Hmm. What about crying in non-romance scenes, viz, crying alone? Especially as an initial reaction to repeated adversity, disappointment, pain, etc?

    Simply saying 'He burst into tears' is of course seldom suitable, all cliches aside. I did write an interesting scene recently where the character didn't realize she was crying until after she already was. And the reaction was a bit surprising in that situation, too.

    This is a first draft, though, so who knows what it will look like. The way I edit, it might wind up being the big pogo-stick dance routine instead...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Actually, Mr. Pond, I overstated that a bit. Maybe I overstated it a lot.

    I've got a few places in my book where it's not reasonable to expect my protagonist not to cry, considering who she is and what she's experiencing. One scene I've particularly wrestled with is just too early in the book to expect a reader to be strongly moved.

    All of my top characters have their emotional moments, even the boys. I've tried to use understatement, careful description, and anything else I could think of to get through those scenes without schmaltz. We'll see what my first readers say about all that.

    A surprising reaction like the one you've described where your character didn't realize she was crying, can be a great way to pull an emotional scene off. Although pogo dancing could be interesting. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Shoot ... missed a comma.

    "A surprising reaction, like the one you've described where your character didn't realize she was crying, ..."

    ReplyDelete

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