The reader has certain rights. He bought your story. Think of this as an implicit contract. He’s entitled to be entertained, instructed, amused; maybe all three. If he quits in the middle, or puts the book down feeling his time has been wasted, you’re in violation. — Larry Niven, American science fiction writer
Even if the reader doesn’t ‘buy’ your story (perhaps the book was a gift, or borrowed from a library), a writer still must play fair. You can’t advertise your novel as the family-friendly tale of a dog trying to get back home, for instance, if it’s really a steamy romance from the dog owner’s point of view.
I just finished reading Jodi Picoult’s leaving time, and despite the fact she’s a #1 New York Times bestselling author, I’m hesitant to read any more of her 20-plus works. Here’s why:
This was my first Jodi novel. The cover wasn’t memorable, but the blurb piqued my interest. In it, her characters were said to be “nuanced,” her plots “riveting,” her prose “rich,” and her stories “brilliantly” created.
leaving time is the story of a 13-year-old girl in search of her mother, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances after a tragic accident. The girl solicits help from two others: the disillusioned private detective who worked on the original case, and a psychic who doubts her own abilities.
It’s told from four points of view — the girl, her mother, the PI, and the psychic. We wade through detailed descriptions of elephant sanctuaries and behavior (the girl’s mother is a researcher in that area); we spend time identifying with the characters (all of whom speak in the first-person). We’re invested in what happens through nearly 400 pages.
Spoiler alert! Then, when we’re nearing the final few pages, we learn TWO of the characters are ghosts! Yes, ghosts, can you believe it?
If I’d known this was a paranormal tale, I wouldn’t have picked it up. If I’d been told this was a story where half the main characters were not only fictional, but dead, I wouldn’t have wasted days reading it. And if I’d known the author was hell-bent on regurgitating somebody’s old research about elephants, I’d have thrown it across the room!
I could be wrong though. Maybe I missed the point. Maybe it was brilliantly written, enlightening, and ground-breaking. Maybe I’m just miffed this sort of work by a new writer wouldn’t get out of the slush pile, when a bestselling author can get away with it.
Anybody else trudge through this one?