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Monday, May 18, 2009

Dawn Breaks

The book has resided in various places over the course of the last several weeks--on the desk in the kitchen and then at my bedside after a long stint resting on the family room coffee table; previously it sat tucked on my daughter’s bookshelf. Yesterday, it traveled with me to a dance recital for which I was required to arrive an hour early. It’s the next book that I have promised myself I’d read, yet I keep finding reasons not to. Over the last week, Bon Appetit and Food and Wine offered distractions, as did Yankee Magazine when it arrived in the mail. Then, yesterday was Sunday and in spite of the fact that I had the book with me, The Boston Globe Magazine reigned supreme while I waited for the show to begin.

In my self education quest, you may recall that I’ve been reading books on writing, while keeping a list of manuscripts that the authors of these books recommend. Right now, that inventory includes:

Girl with a Pearl Earring
- Tracey Chevalier
Family History – Dani Shapiro
The Way Home - Allison Johnson
The Memory Room – Mary Rakow
Are you Somebody? - Nuala O’Faolain
Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
The Beans of Egypt Maine – Carolyn Chute
And two books by Rebecca McClanahan:
Word Painting: A Guide to Writing more Descriptively and
Write your Heart Out

You will note that this list does not include Breaking Dawn, the fourth book in the mega-hit Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, the shiny black hardcover that I have been shifting from location to location through out our house.

I started reading my daughter’s books a few years ago after she discovered a teen romance as a twelve-year-old and was infused with the joy of reading. She reread the book so many times that I figured I better find out what it was all about. That book was innocent, easy to read, and offered exactly enough intrigue to hold a maturing “tween’s” interest. Regardless of the storyline though, what mattered most is that it jump-started her enthusiasm for reading and it got her talking about what she read-—to me.

Since then I’ve read many of her books, including the Ballet Shoes series by Noel Streatfeild, Whatever Happened to Jane and two sequels, by Caroline Cooney; The Penderwicks, by Jean Birdsall and the ever popular Princess Diaries, authored by Meg Cabot. When her summer reading assignments come around, I wait anxiously for her to finish, so I too can read Chinese Cinderella, or A Fairwell to Arms and offer up comments like, “How did you feel about the way that father treated his daughter” or “Weren’t you grossed out when Hemingway described the wound as 'hamburger'?” Our reading gives us a common bond, to some degree allowing me a place on a tilted playing field, when as the mom of a teenager, the not so occasional expectation is that I should roll off into the woods with the other foul balls, remaining lost somewhere in the underbrush.

Then came Stephanie Meyers hit novel: Twilight. Vampires? Not my proverbial cup of tea. But when Megs read the book in about forty-eight hours and immediately started reading it again, I knew she was hooked. Given the story line, it was difficult for me to express enthusiasm, but after she poured through the second and third books in the series, then pooled all of her remaining money to buy the fourth in hardcover, I decided to get reading. Finally and reluctantly, I started Twilight. If we establish that there is nothing in my span of reality that allows me to empathize with the desire to kiss a cold vampire, the book kept me engaged. Note I did not say engrossed. That happened with the second book, New Moon, and by the third, Eclipse, notwithstanding that I prefer the werewolves to the vampires, I was a convert.

Then, I paused, and Breaking Dawn has been waiting for me ever since. During each weekly visit to the library, I’ve checked out books off my “homework” list, or simply tomes that appealed to me, conveniently forgetting that Breaking Dawn sits at home, unread. I even enjoyed the Twilight movie with my daughter, but it failed to convince me to open that fourth book. After many weeks of patiently watching me wade through my own reading agenda, Meghann reminded me not to take any more books out of the library so I could finish the series, and I followed through—well, at least on the withholding-from-checking-out-a-book part anyway. So Breaking Dawn comes with me throughout the house and on my errands, waiting, always waiting, for me to crack the cover.

What it comes down to is this--754 pages of eighteen-year-old Bella Swan dating a vampire while maintaining a complicated best friendship with a werewolf is one thing. The fact that she manages all this without the knowledge of her single parent, police chief and, pardon my expression but thick as a brick father, well, that’s another. It’s all just a bit difficult to swallow, yet as I write this it’s sinking in that it’s not the vampires per se that get to me-- it’s Bella’s continual misrepresentation to her father of the role they play in her life, that does.

Here I am reading my daughter’s books in an effort to stay connected to her, and the heroine in the series that she loves habitually fabricates the details of her unconventional love life and vampire-associated injuries to her dad. While I’m pretty sure there aren’t any ghosts or goblins in our girl’s life, this book is a cue that even good teens frequently withhold important facts from their parents.

That a father, fictional or real can be blind to the billowing red flags that his off-spring regularly flies in front of him makes me crazy though, and slightly worried. Like all parents, I think the best of my daughter. Perhaps though, my uneasiness in continuing the series is its constant reminder that as with every teenager, there are probably an awful lot of things in our daughter’s life that we aren’t aware of. While we can’t know everything, reading her books is one way of keeping me in touch; a way to hold the doors open to continued conversation so perhaps some of those things we don't know, find their way out.

When all is said and done, if there is anything I can do to stop from turning into a Chief Swan, I’ll do it. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to finish up this blog entry and edit it, because it’s time for me to start reading.

1 comment:

cthompson said...

Hmmmm, I'd better get reading too....