Tuesday, March 22, 2016

When should I forgive? by Suz deMello

I had a hard time forgiving my father before he died for all the bad parenting he'd committed. About three years later, I realized when my eldest brother was diagnosed with stage four cancer that I'd better get the knack of forgiveness, fast, because he wasn't going to be around much longer. So I learned to forgive, though I'm not quite sure how. I think I looked at the way he'd evolved since he'd been my nasty childhood tormentor. Mostly due to the influence of his second wife, I think, he'd eventually evolved into a pretty nice guy.

So these days I'm good at forgiveness. Mostly.

But there are some transgressions that are very difficult to forgive.

In a book by an otherwise good person who will go unnamed (I wish to spare her embarrassment and public humiliation), she wrote that the detective hero had helped the prosecution's case with his testimony on appeal.

This happened early in the book and, unforgiving, I did not read another word. Even laypersons who have watched a highly publicized trial (or are addicts of TV shows like Law and Order) are aware that testimony is never taken on appeal. In their decision-making, appellate courts are limited to the record, i.e., the evidence presented at the trial court level.

Several years passed. This same nice lady's career advanced, and I decided to try another of her books. Though I didn't read anything as egregious, still, the second book of hers I tried was simply a mess. It bore all the hallmarks of a series opening novel in which the author leaves all kinds of loose ends in order to have something to tie up in later books. A paranormal romantic suspense, it was well out of her comfort zone (she usually writes contemporary RS with a strong police procedural feel) and it was just bad bad bad. Predictably, the series sputtered and died after only one or two more books, when quite clearly the author had planned for several based on the characters she'd introduced.

I had forgiven her too early. Maybe I should not have forgiven her at all.

In another very nice lady's first book for Harlequin, she began with the heroine awakening from sleep by an odd noise, and then spent several pages with the character thinking about her situation. In other words, the author dropped an info dump on the unsuspecting reader starting at page one. That never works with me. I hate info dumps even when they're only a paragraph, and they just don't belong in the beginning of a book. Get me to care about the character before you lay a whole bunch of backstory on me. Otherwise, that's just boring. Actually--info dumps don't belong anywhere. Slip in the info cleverly, without me noticing. 

Though I really respect this author as a person, I haven't read anything by her since, and it's been a very long time. I've tried--I swear--but after a couple minutes of struggle, I give up. I just don't like the writing, though I admire the person.

Other authors may slump and with me, my interest never recovers. And it's sad. I used to adore Jayne Ann Krentz in all of her personae, especially as  Amanda Quick. I loved her historicals! Then the dreaded series bug bit her--or maybe it bit her editors. She began writing these very formulaic books, mostly three part series. They are awful, stilted, predictable bores. 

I don't understand why an author of her stature bothers. She can't possibly need more money or fame--she's already there. 

Maybe I'm probably too picky about what I read, and often find myself moping around grumbling that there's nothing to read, it's all crap, I might as well go reread something I know will be good.

Should I be more forgiving?


  1. Forgiveness shouldn't include enduring something that doesn't agree with you. Life is too short, and there's lots of good reads out there. Forgive yourself for trying to accommodate something you don't like for some strange view of altruism. Seems if the series fizzled, you had the right take from the start. Don't blame yourself for that. It's not your place.

  2. Forgiving childhood things that happened is especially hard, because we remember them from the perspective of a child who doesn't understand adults and has no way of seeing them except as powerful entities who could hurt us. Which also applies to older siblings, besides the feeling that they have less right than adults to be mean to us, so unfairness is part of the equation.

  3. There are too many well-written books out there to waste your time on the poorly-written ones, Suz.

    Your post also highlights how our individual experience and knowledge affects our reactions to books. I wouldn't have batted an eye reading about the new evidence on appeal, because honestly, I don't watch TV and have little information about legal procedure. On the other hand, a book that has a Dom caning a sub in her very first scene will make me stop reading immediately!

    1. I bet that happens--there are a lot of dumb Doms out there--but a second scene is very unlikely unless the sub is madly in love. (blushing--I was once that idiot).

  4. Hahaha, I love this take on the topic, Suz. There is a pretty long secret list of authors I like as people but whose books I can't stand. And, like you, if I drift off for one reason or another, I tend not to return.

  5. Interesting take on the topic. I can "forgive" authors who make mistakes because writing is a learning process, so there is always room for improvement. On the other hand, there are so many books and so little time that I might not choose to read something by someone whose last book (or 3) seemed disappointing.


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