Monday, March 29, 2010

I Hate it When That Happens!

I just finished reading a book in which the main character, near the end of the book, is diagnosed with cancer and dies. ARGH! Why do authors DO that? Don't they know that most of us read for entertainment, and investing our time in getting to know and relate to a main character only to have him or her die is no fun?

Some years ago, I read a book by LuAnn Rice, and I really enjoyed it until I got to the end and the main character died of cancer--right after finding Mr. Right. I've never picked up another LuAnn Rice book. More recently, I read a book about a relationship between two friends; near the end of the book, one is diagnosed with cancer and dies. I didn't think that one was quite as bad because there were TWO main character and the story was about their relationship over the years; the death of one of them wasn't quite as much of a shock, particularly when balanced with the richness of the rest of the narrative.

This last book, though--well, I'm just annoyed. In the first place, it took a little bit for me to get into the book--I nearly put it down a couple times. However, there was just enough in the story to keep me reading, and near the end, I had started to enjoy it. The main character had experienced several of life's setbacks but had persevered and was finally becoming successful and finding some happiness in her life. She had several friends, and the book told their stories as well. Of course, just when things were starting to resolve nicely for everyone, the main character was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and died at a fairly young age, leaving behind a teenage daughter.

In my view, inflicting a main character with cancer that results in death is simply an author's gratuitous attempt to provoke a reader's emotional response and/or quickly end a book without putting further time and effort into the story line. And why is it always CANCER? Is cancer "sexier" than, for instance, a ruptured appendix, diverticulitis, or an aneurysm? How about having the main character get run over by a bus? Step on a bar of soap and fall in the shower? Die of a heart attack while jogging? No?

I don't insist on reading only happy books, but when I've spent time with a character who dies in the end--well, I just feel manipulated and I don't like it. How about you? Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to reading?

I had a friend who used to always read the last chapter of a book first. I always thought that was a strange thing to do because I preferred to be surprised, but in this case, I wish I had read the end first. Now it's time for me to go browse my bookshelf and see if I can find something there more worthy of my time.

24 comments:

Heckety said...

Huh! you have another friend who always reads the endings first! And I really agree with you on these digruntlements-killing off your characters is just plain lazy!

Another of my pet peeves would be stereo-typing nationalities characteristics...ie, if an author doesn't know enough to give a foreigner a 'real' character then leave him/her out. Of course- twee Irish are the ultimate pits...

Sorry I haven't visited for a while- been pretty busybeeish...howarya doing me ould polkafriend??Well, apart from buying dodgy cosmetics with Gran...I HEARD ABOUT THAT!!!

QuiltingFitzy said...

I am on book #18 for 2010, lol, and I have the list to prove it!

I won't read anything with names of people or places I can't pronouce. They have to just roll of my mental tongue or they're history. Takes too much work!

I read a fair amount of Amish-based fiction. Drives me NUTS when everytime one of the characters says ONE WORD in Pennsylvania Dutch, the author feels the need to restate the English word, like we couldn't possibly figure it out for ourselves. Give me a break!

I ride public transportation to/from work which gives me 20 minutes each way to read, and our job is very regulated-we are not allowed to work anything other than our 8. Gives me a 60 minute lunch hour to read too. Not a bad thing!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kim,
I don't "read"the last chapter but often do skim for names because I hate getting attached to a character who is short-lived.
I bet I could even guess which book you were reading.
Sue

Shelley said...

Great Post Kim! Very thought provoking!

Cara said...

I've come to a point in my life were I've had enough heartache in "real" I don't need it in my fiction too. I can appreciate a good book but I don't want to delve into a world of pain and suffering, especially if I don't get redemption in the end.
If I'm not into it by then end of chapter 3 I put the book down. That's about my only rule lol.

Suzanne Kistler said...

I know exactly what book you're talking about. I was also disappointed with the end. Yet it stuck with me, and I eventually ended up reading the sequel. Parts of it were annoying too. I much preferred her other book, Comfort Food...although if you ask me now, I can't tell you a single specific about it.

as to choosing cancer - it offers the author a drawn out death, a chance for goodbyes and preparations, etc. Ruptured appendix? Aneurysm? The author couldn't leave you hanging like that. Sudden death would take another book to address all of the loose ends and ramifications.

KimQuiltz said...

There's enough REAL tragedy in life without having to constantly read or watch PRETEND tragedy. I just plain refuse!

And television news? Who needs it? If there is something I REALLY need to know, then my quilting blogger friends can be counted on to rant about it and keep me informed. :-)~

Robin (rsislandcrafts) said...

I don't like becoming vested with a character to just have them die at the end. At least you know what happens to them though. Drives me nuts when you spend all that time with a character and at the end the author just leaves you hanging. Did the characters solve their problems? Did the kids go to college and become a contributing part of society, etc?

I never read the last chapter. If I did, I wouldn't want to read the book. I would already know the end so why bother?

Moneik said...

I completely understand what you're saying about that book. It took me a long time to get into the book too. I hated how it ended, but I liked the sequel and I have the Christmas one too, that I'm still trying to get into. I always buy books and let my mom read them after me, but this one I just couldn't because she was given less than a year to live at Christmas time and the book just hits too close to home.

julieQ said...

There is a major movie out right now...famous author whose name escapes me...and that is the theme! I hate those...I don't mind a lot of tribulations throughout a book, but I NEED happy endings!

Janet said...

I think the book you are referring to was a knitting fiction book? If it was I totally agree cancer was an easy out. I too had a hard time getting into that book but decided to keep on trying as I heard it was really good, but unfortunately I was disappointed. I love to read but find it difficult to find a really engaging book.

Really glad your arms are well enough to blog once in a while. Take Care

Janet

Darlene said...

I read that book last year and it left me with a huge broken heart. I have the sequel to read and just can't get into it.

Anonymous said...

Did I miss the name of the book? I'm another that reads the last few pages before starting and it doesn't affect the story for me at all. Kind of makes it more interesting.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've read many, if any books like the one you described. But I use to read this one author's books all the time, until I got tired of 'the poor lady with so many problems meets the handsome rich man and they finally get together and live happily ever after'. I finally got tired of hearing about the 'perfect world' and started reading King and Koontz books.

Gran said...

I have to admit that I look at the end page, sometimes, don't read it fully, just kind of breeze over it. Don't know why I do that, but I love to read the publishing information and author information before that. I avoid the back cover and the inside jacket covers that are trying to sell the book - because I want to read the book!

Yvonne said...

I was very disappointed with the end of that book also.

Nicole said...

Oh my gosh, did this post ever resonate with me! The famous mystery author Elizabeth George had an entire series about an English lord and his wife and their friends/colleagues. It was very engrossing, and each installment in the series was eagerly anticipated. Then what did she do? Out of the blue, she kills off one of the primary main characters. Just like that. It left her fans speechless, and many of them quite disgruntled. Now, I don't advocate a scenario like Stephen King's "Misery", where the disgrunted fan kidnaps the author and starts threatening to cut off his toes unless he resurrects the character he bumped off, but I DO wish authors would give us readers a bit of a break. We read your books because we love the characters. Kill them off, and why would we want to come back?

dianne said...

don't tell me - let me guess ... The Friday Night Knitting Club ... am i right?

cuz i hated that book at the end and i reminded myself that i hated it when i saw the sequel at Costco (even though i WOULD like to know that Dakota is okay - although i don't really see how she could be - i thought that her father was a loser) ... so it didn't go into the cart and i don't think i ever want to read another Kate Jacobs book ... ever.

my word verification is dewoofis - a dog that has had its woof removed

Melissa said to let you know that she is reading The Princess Bride and the morals of the story are "Life isn't fair" and "Bad things happen to good people" - she said that she was VERY upset when they killed Wesley (even though he comes back to life) ... blah blah blah ... something something something - and i told her to write her own comment

Jen in NY said...

You know I was mad about that part of the book too...but then I thought, well, it would have been expected to have her live...maybe the author was trying to do something different? Something more like real life? It was really sad though. I had to read the sequel which was okay. "Comfort Food" was the last one I read...ick. So much name-dropping and it was completely far-fetched.

Kim said...

I wasn't happy with that ending either! But I don't read the ending and I do read the whole book. I am always optimistic that it will get better, but sometimes it doesn't. I do try to stay away from reading about cancer because I have enough in my life. But, I also like to get emotionally involved.

Anonymous said...

Was it Firefly Lane? It took me a week to finish the last chapter. I couldn't bring myself to finish it because I knew she would die! great story before the death though.

Rhonda said...

Kim, like you, I don't like sad endings of death, especially cancer, that's why now I only choose books that are romantic or funny.....LOL....I've got enough sadness in life as it is....I want as much happiness as I can get.
Take care.

ratherbquilting said...

I hate when authors have the main character die, and especially of cancer. Most of us have lost someone to cancer and are not really looking to relive that painful experience with our leisure reading.
I also hate when I HATE the main character. I hate that even more when the story is good enough to keep me interested, so I keep reading and grousing to myself. (Like Kinsey Milhone in the series by Sue Grafton - really can't stand her.)
I hate an ending that seems rushed and also hate when I keep reading a book, thinking surely it will get better, but it never does!!!

Dortha said...

Hi was the book the Friday night knitting club or something like that? I read that book and I was so disappointed in how the author ended it. I thought she could have done something different. I do tend to read the last few pages. I just didn't on this one.