Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day 2007

I just finished reading Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It works on many levels—as all her books do. One aspect of it, though, struck me in light of this being Father’s Day.

One of the ideas in this book is that a family can love and believe in someone even if they act like jerks toward that person. I found myself thinking what a powerful idea that is.

Many of us had less than ideal families who treated us in less than ideal ways—including perhaps our fathers. And there is a part of each of us for whom that is true that wants to believe we are loved and that our families do believe in us—whatever the apparent evidence to the contrary.

And that’s what makes a book “work.” It’s the emotional points of connection, the moments when we feel as strong a tug to our heartstrings as the characters feel to theirs. It’s when we KNOW how the characters feel because a part of us feels the same.

This is true even of hard thrillers. The emotion may be less explicitly on the page but it’s there. It’s implicit in the: What if I could be the one who saves the world? What if my life was at stake? What if I had to choose between power and wealth and the principles I believe in?

When I read a book about a loving father, it always gets to me because I wish I’d had one. When I read about a father like mine, I find myself nodding with understanding over what the son or daughter feels. And it’s always a point of emotional connection for me.

One of the reasons I loved books growing up is that because in books I could see how fathers might be. And it let me believe that not all men would be like my father. I could find role models for how to love that I didn’t see at home. It’s why I think I became a writer—because I know how important the stories we tell might be to the right person who reads it. It’s why I celebrate the success of every writer—not just my own. All our stories matter.

Happy Father’s Day to everyone who has a reason to celebrate it today. A silent toast to those of us who do not.