Some books are devoured whole, the tension arc building and carrying us through the pages, defying the rest of our carefully planned schedule for the day. After these books are set aside, we may never step inside that particular universe again. It was a delightful ride, but it didn’t linger, it didn’t resonate.
A knee-jerk response would be to judge that rapid finish as the ultimate measure of enjoyment. But, these aren’t the books I seek the most. The works I revel in, are the ones that even after I refile the book, filling the gap on the shelf, I can’t help but think about it more, relive a particular scene, wonder what if . . .?
I have found that these resonating experiences come in three varieties:
1. A particular passage
2. The ending
3. The entire breath of the book
I recently had the pleasure of reading Elizabeth Bear’s All the Windwracked Stars. I certainly found it an enjoyable read and would recommend it to a seasoned fantasy reader, but it wasn’t my favorite book of the year. However, there was one passage that I halted over and reread multiple times. Not because I didn’t understand it, but because I wanted to replicate the feeling of wonder and sharp inhale the first time my eyes touched it:
“And Cathoair found himself thinking that there should be a word for the way the hair sticks in curls to the neck of somebody you ought to have learned to love but didn’t, when you are walking with them at night, down the beach in the rain.”
Haunting. Occasionally these powerful segments can actually pull us from the story, sending us along an overgrown path, one we haven’t dared to traverse in years.
Endings get a lot of hype, as well they should. I’m not delving into the shocking endings, or the cliff hangers, I mean the perfect capsule that enriches what you just read and creates a life of it’s own beyond the text.
The example that sticks out most of me is Stephen King’s Christine :
“What if it’s started again?
What if it’s working its way east, finishing the job?
Saving me for last?
His single-minded purpose.
His unending fury”
Granted, you need the rest of the story to understand the character of Roland D. LeBay, and his constant anger, and those final two lines are sublimely perfect. It’s the only time I can recall actually feeling scared after finishing a book.
Finally, there are books where the fiber of it stretching from preface to epilogue refuses to leave. The first example I have of this is, The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. That was such a powerful and disturbing book that I begged my friends for a light-hearted read to cleanse the palate.
A second example is Octavia Butler’s Kindred. What a marvelous job of transporting us into the antebellum south and into the mindset of the early 19th century. The relationship that is built between Dana and Rufus is as human as it is ugly. I agreed with Dana’s choice near the end, though I would have not predicted that conversion. The willingness to go along with her poked and prodded at me and I could only sigh in resignation.
That’s my story. What books resonate with you?