My mother-in-law is a reader. A causal one, of course, because she (unlike myself) has a life, but the fact remains that she is…indeed…a participant in that nightly brain-numbing ritual so many of us hold so dear. This (her need to read) is a heartily welcomed habit in regards to our relationship (aka I don’t have much else in common with her, and sometimes find myself struggling for topics of conversation while in her presence. ) She is sweet, well meaning, and always on the go, all qualities I admire, but lack in my own character make-up. In layman’s terms…she is my polar opposite. This beautiful woman, (who for the record was a model when she was younger *sigh*) is a Southern Matriarch. I am that random emo girl you see in Target who always looks lost and a little uncomfortable. She has Bunko groups and spa days. I hide in corners chicken-scratching crossword puzzles, and get my toes done once every 4 months when my heels start to resemble the Grand Canyon.
She likes HAPPY books.
I like SAD ones.
It is (by now) no great mystery that I prefer devastating literature over the bouncy-blonde-my-stupidity-will-make-you-giggle variety. It is in my nature, (I guess you could say,) solidified by my writing style and choice of music. I like to feel connected to what I’m reading and for me (as pathetic as this may sound) this usually comes in the form of pain, hardship and heartache. My mother-in-law (and husband if I’m being honest) think that this is insane. “Read something that’s not so damn depressing” both have said to me , ( on several occasions, ) and to that…this is my reply:
I lead a very happy life. I want for nothing. I do not struggle for my independence or spend my evenings curled up in a corner in fear. I have beautiful children, which I easily feed and clothe. I have a husband who does not beat me. I am blessed. My choices in literature offer balance. A counter weight (if you will) to help keep my eyes open. I could very easily become high-maintance and self-centered, these books are my constant reminders of the “real world.” They allow me to gain/keep my perspective in check; be thankful for what I have, but also be aware of those who have less. In short…they act as my conscience.
This is where the conversation usually ends, ( out of confusion or understanding I am uncertain, ) but for just a few short moments I am allowed to indulge in literatures “less than shiny” side of life. No arguments. Tears be damned. AND at the end of the day, whether the story ended on a sad note or a happy one…I feel as though I am “better” for reading it.
Chelsea Fine’s novella “Sophie and Carter” is a very good example of the “gut check” I look forward to (and appreciate) when taking on a “sad” read.
“While other high school seniors are dreaming about their futures, Sophie and Carter are just trying to make it through each day. Carter is overwhelmed by issues at home as he struggles to support his mother. Meanwhile, next door neighbor Sophie is left to care for her three younger siblings in place of their absent and troubled mother. All that holds these two best friends together is each other, and knowing that each night they’ll sit together on Sophie’s front porch swing and escape from reality, if just for awhile. But as their relationship reaches a turning point and high school graduation nears, will their friendship become something more?”
This (like I said above) is a novella, not a full blown novel, so the read is a very short one (128 or so pages,) BUT, even with less “paper” and only a handful of words, the world created by Fine is both bone chilling and beautiful. Sophie and Carter are both seniors in high-school, and unfortunate as it may be, products of their parents bad choices (Sophie’s mom is a prostitute and Carter’s mom is clinically insane) They have been forced to grow up to fast, take on the responsibilities of adults, feed their siblings and act as a nurse. This novella is a glimpse into their harsh realities, and the impact a “few peaceful moments on a porch swing and an understanding friend” can have on a persons existence.
The narration is chaptered (meaning it alternates between Sophie and Carter) and 95% of the read is inner dialogue versus character interaction, but this (the narration choice) is what makes the read so captivating. We are not living this book through the chopped and (sometimes) meaningless outward conversation of teenagers. Instead, we experience inner-turmoil in it’s most extreme state. The “beauty” in Fine’s work appears in the form of understanding. A connection between two people, who know intimate details about the other, and struggle to maintain a balance between love and duty.
Now, I know I have put mounds of stress on the word devastating, and I assure you…this is a very sad book filled with very sad situations, but at the same time it is uplifting, sweet and offers a lesson that each of us would be wise to learn.
Well worth the money and the few hours it will take you to gobble it up.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: It’s not what you put into your life, it’s what you get out of it.
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