I made an observation to my daughter last night: I’m reading books with the theme of “death.” One book I recently read was Blue Nights by Joan Didion. In the book, she talked about losing her husband and losing her daughter, but mostly the book was about her daughter. Knowing her in a way only she did.
And now I am reading two other books that also have the death theme. One is The Sum of Our Days (nonfiction) by Isabel Allende. This is about her loss of her daughter, Paula, and life after she was gone. The other book is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. TFIOS is fiction. It’s a novel. It’s about cancer kids dealing with cancer and the prospect of dying. The prospect of death.
I did not shed a single tear as I read the nonfiction books about loss (I am still reading TSOOD.) But I cried like a baby when I read The Fault in Our Stars. Seriously, I broke down.
My daughter was the one to encourage me to read TFIOS. I had to keep putting it off because of a backlog of novels to review for Night Owl Reviews (one boring novel held me up because I didn’t have interest in reading it so much). But she REALLY pushed me to read this book. So, I figured, okay. I’ll take a week off from being the Dutiful Book Reviewer Sticking to Her TBR Pile and read another book.
(WARNING! SPOILERS! IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FAULT IN OUR STARS YET BUT PLAN TO, SKIP THIS BLOG POST!)
As I read this novel during the week, I sent a few text observations of the story to my daughter:
I know why Hazel wants to know what happens to the other people in the book: It is a transference of her own life. She knows she's going to die but she's worried about the people she will leave behind. The characters in the book represent the people in her life and somehow, by knowing what happens to them, she is subconsciously trying to assure herself the people in her life will be ok after she's gone, because she will tell herself that she knows what their lives are going to be like now.
That Van Houten guy is such an asshole!! Fucking douchebag.
Your father caught me talking to myself. I was ranting at God, ranting at religion, ranting at society and stupid old-fashioned ideas and stupid alcoholic authors and bloody CANCER!!! Oh God. Why did he have to die?? Why??!!!!!???
After I sent that last one, I then sent an emoticon of me crying. There wasn’t one of a person bawling their head off. But believe me, I was bawling my head off. When I got to that part in the novel, I was sad. Then I was angry. Then I was Very, Very Sad. We’re talking bawling-my-head-off sad. I literally bawled. Seriously. I was in tears and just crying over the loss and over the injustice of it all.
I had told my daughter that I don’t like reading sad books. Because they make me revisit my own sadnesses. The sadnesses that I carry around every day – like the loss of my parents and all that. But this book was not just a sad book. It’s also a book that made me think. It made me hate cancer all the more, of course, and I recalled stories of people who died from breast cancer in my ebook, On the Wings of Pink Angels. Which then reminded me of how that book’s sales benefit a charity for children who are coping with the death of a loved one. Like a child who has lost a parent.
And then we come back full circle again to the subject of death. The theme of death. In a way, everybody’s lives have a “death theme” because our story begins when we are born and ends when we die and that is it. No more story about us. Nothing new about us. We’re dead and gone. And when we die, that is The End. Yet other people will hear our death stories because they’ll recount memories of us or share something we once did or said.
This book also made me think about how it took cancer to make those kids live their lives. To embrace their lives. What if they had never had cancer? Would they have spent their days locked up in their rooms, blaring rock music? Would they have not tried to make anything of themselves at all? Or see anything in the world at all?
I have a new appreciation for sad books, because despite being sad, they also have a purpose. They have a REASON for existing: We have to be able to revisit our pain without it allowing us to crumble into a million pieces from it. We have to allow the tears to come and the weight to tug at our hearts because we know that it is a reminder that we loved someone. Then, once settled, we must pull ourselves out of that funk again. Get back on our feet and keep marching forward through life. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Because we are still living our life. We are still living our story. So we gotta continue with our stories and hopefully try to make it a good one because something like cancer or a heart attack or a car accident can strike out of nowhere and take it all away in the blink of an eye. Or after months of suffering. So I have realized it’s okay to read sad books, because they important. They make us feel, they make us think and they help us to grow.