Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Books: Forgiveness and other concerns

I recently read a mediocre novel of the romance genre. (Someday I do promise to talk about books I enjoy). It is written by an author who is now published as mainstream fiction - where I first discovered her work. I have read others of her work when she was sold strictly as romance, and enjoyed them. This one - not so much.

Problem #1
The storyline is told in third person, primarily from the viewpoint of the lead female. There is a serial killer on the loose and so we are getting snippets from him and also some perspective from the lead male. But the lead male perspective is intentionally hinting at secrets and soullessness, in order to try to convince me that he could be the serial killer. Yeah, cause that'll happen in a romance novel. (I say this not to denigrate romance at all - I adore the romance/women's fiction genre, but one of the things that I like about the romance genre is the fact that as many horrible things happen, the two leads always end up together.)

Problem #2
I don't have kids. But there is a scene where she sees her child talking to a man her child has never met on the front lawn. She chides her child for talking to strangers, and her child explains that this man told her it was okay. And the man in question is (supposedly - she never calls to check) an FBI agent so she invites him in. I'm not sure what the right solution is here. I know one of the biggest obstacles to teaching children to be careful about strangers is that children think that nice people don't count as the people they are supposed to be careful around. And I know we're talking about a fictional child, but if you're going to make a point in the book that this agent was questioning a young child without a parent present (which I feel certain is not allowed) and also trying to undo your parenting by telling your child that he's a special kind of stranger (much like a pedophile might say), then don't turn around and invite the guy into your house.

Problem #3
When the lead male confesses to the lead female that he's done lots of bad things he has to atone for and therefore doesn't deserve her (which by the way - yuck - people are not prizes), she answers that when he's ready to tell her what she's done, she'll be ready to forgive him. And here is the one that just annoyed the crap out of me. First, of all, she doesn't know what he's done. Now, I know this is emotional manipulation of the reader, because I'm supposed to worry that he's the killer and now she's gone and forgiven him. The scene would have been just as powerful if she had said she'd be ready to listen.

And let me rant for a little longer on the subject of forgiveness. I think we tend to take the idea of forgiveness a little lightly. First, since we don't yet know what the guy did, how do we know if requires forgiveness? And how do we know she's in a position to forgive him. If, for example, he killed fourteen women, she can forgive him all she wants, but it's not really up to her. He didn't do anything to her - she's not the one that he would need forgiveness from.

Forgiveness is one of those areas where I agree with Dr. Laura - we feel like good people if we grant forgiveness. It allows us to feel like a bigger person. There's all these people on talks shows and such telling you to let go of stuff you've been holding on to, to forgive people for things you think they did to hurt you. And all of that is true. But forgiveness and letting go are not one and the same. And forgiveness should have two things - first - it should be about something that was done to you. I can forgive my neighbors for letting their dog attack my other neighbor's child (just an example) - but it's not up to me. And second - forgiveness should accompany someone actually indicating some remorse for what hey did, and hopefully a behavioral change.