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The Book’s Feelings Won’t be Hurt

“Don’t Feel Bad About Quitting a Book; Books Don’t Have Abandonment Issues. Seriously, The Books Will Understand” by Paul Comb https://medium.com/artisanal-article-machine
Image from Wikimedia Commons
“Don’t Feel Bad About Quitting a Book; Books Don’t Have Abandonment Issues. Seriously, The Books Will Understand” by Paul Comb https://medium.com/artisanal-article-machine

Hello! I’m Cheryl Dunn in Lincoln, NE for HPPR’s Radio Readers Fall Book Club.

The book Bewilderment by Richard Powers was one that I just couldn’t get through. I picked it up multiple times and would read several pages and then would have to put it down again.

Normally, I give myself until page 100 to pass judgement on a book and I did make it through 25% of this book before I just gave up. The writing to me was choppy and hard to really feel a flow. Maybe this could have been remedied by listening to it, which I have found helps with certain books.

On top of that, for me the theme of a mother that has died is overplayed. Anymore when new children’s movies come out, my family and I try to guess who will have died…the father, the mother, or both. We have grown very complacent about this, but really if we delve into the minds of children and even parents, mothers in particular, the thought of a parent dying can be deeply upsetting.

Then there is the point of the child in this story, Robin who has a form of autism and his father Theo, who is a professor of astrobiology. Robin needs consistency and help, and his father has a job that is demanding, but he provides no real structure for his son when it comes to school or socializing.

The final straw that stopped me from reading further was when Robin had one of his violent outbursts that broke the cheekbone of his only remaining friend. The father was so dismissive of how hurt the child could be and again ignored what the school officials were telling him. He only thought of how they wanted to medicate his child, which he didn’t want to do. I understand that medication is not for everyone, but it can be life changing for someone that is struggling and to me, it should never be fully dismissed as an option.

I will say there are some good things in the quarter of the book I read that included some lovely moments of father and son imagining planets and beautiful quotes. One of my favorite parts is when he likens astronomy to being a kid. I wanted to be an astronomer until I came across physics in my senior year in high school. That ended that pursuit, but fundamentally the exploration and wonderment that astronomy provides is very much like a child going through moments of discovery as they grow and play.

Maybe I am missing something in this book by not reading it fully and you all might have a different take on it since it has been rated well by others. I am just not one that likes watching the news anymore or reading material that isn’t uplifting in some way. I have several family members who are neurodivergent too and I don’t see this book as honoring those people or the professionals that work with them.

They can provide so much light and love into the world with how their brains see things and I think Richard Powers missed a good opportunity to show how grief affects them.

Lastly, I also want to share how you don’t have to finish a book. My daughter and I had this conversation just the other night about another book that also has been rated well and won an award. It was geared toward her age group but had very adult situations in it that were upsetting.

If a book is triggering or upsetting, please put it down. There are so many others out there that can be enjoyed, and your time is precious and what you feed your brain is too.

I’m Cheryl Dunn for the h-p-P-R Radio Readers Book Club’s 2023 Fall Read – Wisdom of the Natural World.

Fall Read 2023: Wisdom of the Natural World 2023 Fall ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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