Books That Go Bump in the Night

How many of you have been haunted? Was it a good experience or a bad one?

Okay, just so you know, I’m not talking about spooks or ghostly apparitions, ghouls or even goblins. I’m talking about books and characters, and those haunting stories you just can’t seem to shake. It’s not about horror or Stephen King, or any specific genre. A book capable of haunting you can be a book of any genre because it’s not the genre, it’s the book itself. You know what I mean, those characters brought to life on the page by their thoughts and actions, leaving you wondering just how the author was able to create such believable, and memorable characters.

Characters who live on after the story has expired, who leave us wondering and thinking about their actions, especially if it’s a character we’ve grown fond of, is not always an unpleasant experience. As a matter of fact it can be kind of fun as we speculate what might have happened had the story continued on. Sometimes we replay our favourite scenes one more time or relish a particular phrase or sentence. Have you been there, done that? I sure have.

This weekend we made a trip to New Brunswick. It is a four-hour drive so I took along a book to help pass the time. The book is one of those stories that haunted me from the very beginning. I was immediately drawn in. The main character wouldn’t leave me alone.

I feel sympathy for him. He’s the underdog. He’s being bullied and it’s horrible. I want him to do something to retaliate, to get back at those who are bullying him. But he takes matters into his own hands because he can’t think of a better way to deal with his situation and emotions. I don’t want him to, in fact I’m appalled at the action he does take, but it does little to change the fact that this book, this character haunted me on the trip home even after I laid the book down. He’s still the underdog and I’m still sympathetic. I’m entering Part Two, my feelings toward this character may change. My feelings should change, I even want them to, but I’m not so certain they will. Is there something wrong with me?

I’m a bit curious about my own emotions concerning this book.
As I read through the story, I’m reminded that for every criminal act we hear about in the news, there is a real person who committed this act, someone who has their own story to tell, who may be trying to deal with life the only way they can. There are things we don’t know, and aren’t privy to. That’s the way life is. We can’t be everywhere, know all things. It’s impossible. Life isn’t a book, a small sliver shaved off a few people’s lives and presented to us. Even if it were, it still wouldn’t make their criminal actions right. It would only inject a bit of understanding and reasoning to it. The book I’m reading does just that, and maybe that’s why it’s haunting me. The main character is so believable. He could be someone I’ve met or have known about. Perhaps he is even me, if I were in that same situation at that age. I can’t be sure.

I’m not certain what my best line of attack is, how best to deal with this haunting. Do I plough through the story just to get to the end, face whatever is awaiting me, get it over with? Or do I read a bit here and a bit there, let the story settle a little at a time, find ways to distract myself in the meantime, stretch it our for a week or more, and hope my main character atones for his actions?

How many of you have been haunted by a book you’ve read, by characters you just can’t shake, characters who get inside your head and don’t want to leave? And how did you tackle the book, a little at a time or in one big smash?

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