Friday, July 30, 2021

Beginning at The End


    As a bookseller I do encounter people that have no shame in telling me that they ALWAYS read the final page or the last few pages or the ending chapter in a book prior to actually starting the book.  I don't even try to mask the look of horror that crosses my face. To make matters worse I am actually related to a couple of these folks. 

    One of them justified her position, telling me that by reading the end first she knows if she should let herself get emotionally invested in a character.  If that person turns out to be a jerk or dies or ends up miserable she wants to know ahead of time.  I have pondered this concept and I just don't get it.  For me part of the reading experience is trying to figure out the end.  Trying to out guess the author's intent seeing the next page and finding out if  I had it right or wrong.  Cheering for the characters or being happy that they get what they deserved (the good, the bad and the ugly) and that feeling of satisfaction as I read the last page.  Which is often accompanied by tears (happy or sad) anger, frustration, confusion, delight, despair every emotion that the words have evoked.

    I have to be careful in my bookselling world to not take ownership of a book.  I need to let the reader experience the words on their own terms (even if they read the pages out of order).  As mere humans we all respond differently.  I have to allow that to happen and not push my response on them.  One of those books for me is "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats" by Jan-Phillipp Sendker.  In my humble opinion every word in this novel is perfectly placed.  I realize that puts a lot of pressure on the book to be perfect for the reader.  I often hesitate when recommending the book, out of fear that the new owner won't get it and that would disappoint me.  Unlike the people I mentioned above I couldn't read the end (until I was ready) I didn't want the book to end.  I didn't want the words to disappear.  I went so far as to avoid the ending by rereading previous pages, rereading chapters, slowing down in order to savor every single word.  When I did read to the end I closed the book with a satisfied sigh.  I saw the next page, I knew what happened next and I honestly had a book hangover and was unable to open another book for several days.

    There are 2 sequels to this book.  I have read neither of them.  I never reread "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats" like a first kiss I know I can't replicate the experience.  Customers that have read all three books assure me that I won't be disappointed.  That they are just as good.  I smile and nod my head but I know they are wrong.  For me I saw where the words would lead into the next day, weeks, months, years and I don't want to have it be any other way.

    This isn't the only book that I hold tight, it wasn't the first and won't be the last one to slip inside of me to stay.  I love that I am filled with words and images and there is always room for more.

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