Starting back in 5th grade I began to read these Lurlene McDaniel books. They were these horribly, morbidly, wonderful books (that’s one hell of a description) about young kids with terminal illnesses. Mostly cancer. Sounds depressing (which they were), but they really were wonderful. They were in various series, and lo and behold the major character, or their best friend, died in every damned book.
They were heartbreaking to read, but there was just something so emotionally raw and beautiful about reading them. Every book, in the final pages, made me lose my shit. Except I was young and exponentially more polite back then, so invariably I wouldn’t have used such crass language to describe my penchant for bawling my eyes out, mourning the loss of a character I had got to know over the past 200 pages or so; nevertheless I lost my shit. Why my mother bought them for me, book after book, knowing what they’re about I’ll never know (she couldn’t have stopped me from reading them either). In later years she’d come to affectionately refer to them as the “books I used to read about kids dying.” Lovely.
Which leads me to this… this Friday night I read “The Fault In Our Stars.” In one fell swoop. From clicking buy on my Kindle app to reading the last page. 3-4 hours of my life passed by. Just as the 5th grade version of myself once did (and did for years, until I inevitably stopped reading tragic Lurlene McDaniel books sometime my sophomore year of high school when I moved back to NC. I think I had caught up on the series and in waiting for the next one to come out, discovered the wonderful world of Sweet Valley University. Yes, my taste was impeccable back then. I digress.) I immersed myself whole-heartedly into this poignant, painful world of reality and death. And somewhere in those pages found inspiration, love and an appreciation for infinity (you should probably read the book for the latter point).
This post isn’t about my review of the book (although it is exceptionally brilliant and I recommend it to every last person reading this post) or the movie that I saw less than 24 hours after finishing the book (amazing as well; did the book justice; a bit less expectational though, or at least exceptional in a different right), but rather the emotions and life lessons we get out of a book like that.
It’s funny how being faced with another’s mortality, we’re able to see our own lives a little more clearly. How by poetically suffering with someone else via text on a page we create this sacred bond that books have with their readers — that in some small way we’re glimpsing into the nonexistent soul of the book, certainly of the author — and in that vulnerable and exposed place, we find clarity.
It’s hard to describe. It’s all but tangible. Lessons imparted through no suffering of our own, save the heartbreak of falling in love with characters and losing them into the oblivion of text. But there’s just something magical about what you take away from such a beautiful book. What exposing one’s soul through the written word imparts upon the person soaking in those words like a sponge. Surely it’s sort of cathartic act, blessed by God, that makes the reader feel the words so deeply.
Whatever it is. I’m grateful for it. Lurlene McDaniel imposed, John Green, or whomever next author that crosses my path — they shall undoubtedly find a way to shape my life through their words.
Words have power after all. To heal. To hurt. And pain, well that’s mean to be felt.
Side note, Amazon Kindle as the book for just $4.99 right now. You don’t need a kindle to read it. Just download the “Kindle Cloud App” to your computer or phone. Maybe not a perfect solution, but it’s a cheap one.