Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Turning Away Customers by Andy Scheer

Do you feel obliged, once you start reading a novel, to finish the story?

I blame my childhood. At meals I was taught always to clean my plate. Somehow that sense of obligation extended to my reading.

So I'm choosy about what novels I begin. Does the back cover promise a story that's worth several evenings? And does the craft of the opening page suggest the author knows how to assemble a story?

But sometimes I take shortcuts. Especially with authors whose books I've read. I expect that another installment in a series means similar quality.

Perhaps I view a book series like any other franchise. Today I visited two recently opened outlets of a favorite store that's just come to Colorado.

The closer store had almost no parking. And of the four items on my list, they were out of stock on three. So I tried the other store. Inside, music blared to the point of distraction. And they also had just one of the items I wanted.

Now I'm on my guard. I'll likely return, but I won't be as eager – or optimistic about my chances of success. And if I speak to others, any recommendation will carry cautions.

Much like my assessment of the author whose book I just abandoned.

I've always liked the genre (back when her books were sold as mysteries; the latest was labeled a “novel of suspense”). The stories are set in a town I know. And the author often describes delicious meals. I was ready to love this book.

But the characters felt flat. And the stakes never seemed personal. The characters went through the motions, as though they were strapped into a theme park ride.

Theme park rides are okay, but I expected something more. Next time, if there is one, I'll have lower hopes. Or look for a novel from an author who's still hungry.

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