From the Perspective of A Reader

 

moral-dilemma-empathic-concernShortly before A Fitting Place came out, a friend asked how I would measure the book’s success.

My answer was unhesitating: I wanted it to prompt readers to re-examine the way in which we all make relationship choices.  I hoped that A Fitting Place would:

  • give readers more empathy and understanding—for themselves and for others—of the way in which circumstances, habitual behavior patterns, and societal stereotypes influence the relationships that we choose, and
  • recognize that every relationship reflects a series of choices that we could have made differently, and that we can change if we ourselves are willing to change and grow.

My first clue that I might achieve my goal came one day last week when a middle-aged acquaintance said, in passing, “I loved your book. But I have to tell you, I wouldn’t have read it if I’d known what it was about.”

Straining to keep my jaw from dropping, I asked, “Why did you read it?”

Sailing Down the Moonbeam was wonderful.  So I bought this when it came out. I never checked to see what it was about.”

My reader went on to say that her religious objections to homosexuality had stopped her from ever thinking about the emotional dynamics of a same sex relationship. When she realized what the book was about, she almost put it down.  “But I had to keep reading. I had to know what happened to Lindsey.”

As the conversation continued, she noted that, unlike Lindsey, she’d had multiple sources of emotional support in the wake of her own failed marriage. But now, my reader could empathize with someone who was emotionally bereft.  “Lindsey was reaching out for a relationship that was supportive and nurturing. I could understand that. It made me realize,” she said, “that I needed to be open to alternative ways of dealing with life.”

I had a virtually identical conversation with a woman in her 70’s a few days later.

I was fortunate that both women were willing to speak so openly with me.  From the book clubs I’ve met with so far, I know they are not the first readers to object to the same sex love affair on religious or social grounds.  But they were the first to acknowledge that A Fitting Place pushed them to think differently and even empathetically.  And because these two women were willing to “step outside their comfort zone,” they understood that A Fitting Place was about relationships, not about sex.

On a related note, I’ve had a lot of readers—and reviewers— refer to A Fitting Place as “a page turner” or say that “I couldn’t put it down.”  To my delight, I’ve heard repeated stories of readers who planned to peruse “just one more chapter,” but stayed up into the wee small hours or went to work late in order to finish the book.

A Fitting Place seems to be a good read as well as a thought-provoking book.

For a writer, that has to count as success!

Comments

  1. Mary,

    A Fitting Place, is both a good read and a page turner. I’m glad to hear that it has caused a few people to see things in a different light. That to me is really is what art and writing are all about. I would say you have a successful book and have reached your goal.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Thanks Joan for the boost! Their comments are helping me to do a better job in focusing book club discussions. In the first few, I sensed that 1 or 2 people were uncomfortable, but wasn’t sure how to draw them out. Now I think I do.

  2. Mary. Congratulations. In my opinion, getting people to expand their views, to look at something differently, because of what you have written, or said, or done, is the highest compliment and the ultimate measure of success. Now in even more eager to read your novel. And I shall.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Thanks, Janet. I would love to get your take when you have read it … I’m looking forward to reading yours, in part because I have considered being a late-in-life Peace Corp person, and in part for the experience of living someplace so totally out of your comfort zone. We shall trade comments anon!

  3. You couldn’t ask for more, Mary. By any definition, you have hit the jackpot.

    When I have some distance from our recent loss, I must read this book. I wonder now whether you are following “Last Tango in Halifax,” a British drama (I would say melodrama) on PBS Sunday nights which deals with a variety of relationships once thought deviant.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Hi Marian … I hope things in your world are settling down. Is there a donation I could make in your mother’s name (let me know by email).

      I will check out the PBS program … hadn’t seen it, but we haven’t been around much on Sunday nights of late. Thanks for the tip.

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