Monday, February 07, 2011

A Rant on a Recent Read

The Kindle and its free books have been a boon; I'm reading genres I normally don't, by authors (and publishers) I usually don't have time for.

However, I recently read one freebie book which left me with mixed feelings.

Generally, I enjoy the books I read. If I don't, I usually continue reading them because I'm interested in the topic (these are typically non-fiction books.)

I just had that experience with a fiction book.

The book? Deeper Water by Robert Whitlow. Publisher: Thomas Nelson.

The premise: a 24-year-old, second year law student goes from her home in rural Georgia to Savannah for the summer to clerk for a large law firm and gets a practice case for a man who knows something about a 40-year-old murder.

Sounded interesting to me.

When I started the book, I was interested because the main character, Tami, turned out to be homeschooled. Huh. I hadn't seen that in a novel before. Since I was homeschooled for a time, I was interested.

Soon it became clear that her homeschooling experience and mine were vastly different.

I'm fairly conservative, however Tami and her family took that to an unknown extreme. She had to get permission to take the job from her parents, where to live, etc.

While I finished reading the book, I walked away dissatisfied. For the first time in recent memory, I hadn't liked the main character for a wide variety of reasons: Her family's beliefs were leaving her completely unprepared for life, and as an aspiring attorney, I didn't feel the premise was realistic. If this family was so straight-laced as they put on, I couldn't see them allowing their daughter to go to law school, let alone pursuing a career of any kind.

I also didn't appreciate the fact the family was judgmental towards others. It seemed to me that if you didn't fully agree with their religious perspectives, it didn't matter whether you claimed to be a Christian--you needed conversion of some sort. This probably bothers me because I do feel like I deal with this on a relatively frequent basis from some of those in my circle.

From a writer's perspective, I actually learned a bit from this book--unfortunately, mostly on a "what-not-to-do" level. First, it reinforced for me the novelists theory (especially for mystery/suspense writers) you must not start the book to early or too late. I honestly felt this book started too early, and a great deal of what was covered could have effectively been handled in little chunks of back story. Of course, this would have dramatically shortened the book (which probably would have been a good thing.)

Having sympathetic characters was another important thing. While I realize not everyone will like or sympathize with every character (and this one definitely met my criteria), it's important you can relate to them if you want to keep readers. Other than the homeschooling factoid, I found it extremely difficult to care about Tami. She seemed weak in most areas because she was leaning too hard on her parents as a 24-year-old young woman. From my perspective, her parents were doing her a disservice. But that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, here's my question for you: Have you hung in with a book where you didn't like the story or characters? If you have, why did you? What, if anything, did you learn from the book? In the end, did you like the book or were you more like me--dissatisfied and very unlikely to read anything more from the author?

Until next time,


Linda Yezak said...

John Grisham and I parted ways because his politics were becoming too apparent and were vastly different from mine. I'll read his off-genre books, but I've steered clear of his others.

What bothers me about what you've described is that authors are supposed to do their research, and readers assume they do. Anyone who doesn't know or understand homeschooling is going to think they're all cultish after reading this guy's book. But, I guess, the secular world already does.

Goes to show that agendas override research and truth.

Liberty Speidel said...

Thanks, Linda. :)

I actually feel that this author probably did his research, but there was definitely an agenda behind his writing. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, there was enough in it that made it unbelievable to me. While I know plenty of homeschoolers who had similar beliefs (there's a whole curriculum out there that fosters the kind of beliefs system I saw in these characters), they tend to have a very male-driven outlook, and are unlikely, in my experience, to allow women to do some of the things this woman was allowed to do--and they definitely tend to make the women more subservient (again, in my own experience.)

Maybe I should write a counter to this book. ;) Though, I'm not exactly your "typical" homeschooled adult. Not by half. You can see that in my September blog post on school. :)

Kristina Seleshanko said...

I don't stick with badly written books anymore. I used to feel compelled to finish reading them, but time is too short to waste it reading bad novels. You can learn something from badly written, I guess, but because time is short, great novels are better to learn from :)

It's too bad the author chose to represent homeschooling in this negative light; the representation certainly isn't typical, that's for sure.

Liberty Speidel said...

I actually don't feel the book was badly written, but I do feel the characters weren't put into the proper place/light. It's actually somewhat hard to place my finger on everything that was wrong with the book, though I don't think the actual writing was poor.

And, yes, I do agree with you: homeschooling was placed in a negative light, more because of the family's beliefs system than anything.

Tracy Krauss said...

It has to be 'super stinky' before I'll give up reading all together. sometimes I end up skimming books I don't like just because I'm stubborn that way. Its interesting to me that the book was put out by such a big name publisher. We assume that they must know a good book if they're bothering to publish it. Not always the case ...

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