In the past week I have devoured three books, all by Emily Giffin. I'm not typically a "chick lit" reader, so I wondered why these books I absolutely couldn't put down. (Two of them I read in less than a day, which is a feat considering all three kids were home on Spring break)
I realized, as I found myself actually smiling one of those silly, ear-to-ear smiles at the end of the third, it's because I've become a fan of the happy ending.
When I was in college writing classes I made my name as the "sad but real" writer. While everyone else wrapped their stories up with neatly packaged conclusions for their characters, I left things hanging, often morosely. I wanted to write what I saw as seriously lacking in the books I was reading: reality. If a child is being sexually abused by her father (my first short story), she isn't going to just tell the first available sympathetic ear and be all better. In the end, she kept the secret, because she didn't know how to ask for help. I think it left my readers a bit unsatisfied, but it earned me a lot of respect.
Perhaps it's because I have kids now, and I want happy endings for them. Maybe it's because I can hardly watch the news anymore without feeling a gut-wrenching sadness for the lives of so many others. People on the roads are angry. People in the stores are frustrated and short-tempered. Children are beaten. Women are abused. Leaders in powerful positions all over the world are evil. This is the world I am raising my children in, sending them out in.
But I am happy. I am unbelievably content with my blessings, and unperturbed by my lack. I smile and laugh with my daughter as we shop. My kids and I crank up the music in the car and sing along to it. We dance in the kitchen. I want the happy endings.
Lately, I've read a lot of books that leave me in a funk. Great writing. Great story. Can't put it down kind of stuff. And then for days I walk around in a funk, letting the finality of the story weigh on my mind. I wanted better for the characters, and I feel sad they didn't get a better end. Or worse, I end up not liking them, which is the worst of all because I wonder why I spent valuable time investing in people I wanted to care about only to find out they really had very few redeeming qualities and deserved what they got.
I get it. I do. I used to write like that too. And if you are one of my writer friends, and you write a book like that, I will understand and I will read it, and probably love it because you wrote it and it's your baby.
But for now, I am relishing in these fun reads, where the characters are likable, and find their perfect end.
I like the fairytale, happily-ever-after after all. Who'd have thought?