Today's guest post comes from Kerry Reichs, author of The Best Day of Someone Else's Life and Leaving Unknown and her newest novel, What You Wish For. What You Wish For is a thoroughly modern story of the pursuit of family in all its forms--from the adoptive parents to the single mom to the couple who wants nothing to do with parenthood. Laura Moriarty, author of The Chaperone, says, "Both hilarious and compassionate, What You Wish For is a genuine pleasure. With vibrant prose, memorable characters, and a fast-moving plot, this novel had me hooked from the beginning."
I’ve committed a mortal sin. At least, I might have. It depends on which church you follow. When I start a book, I read the last page first.
Why? Nora Ephron’s recent passing makes more poignant her quote: “When I buy a new book, I always read the last page first, that way in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.” Luckily for me, I’m still safe within my hubris that I’ll live forever, so that isn’t it.
For another friend, the ending tells more about the writing style than the beginning. She doesn't want to get into a book she won't enjoy. I can’t disagree with the premise – my writing is tightest at the end of a novel, momentum faster at the bottom of the slide than the top. But that isn’t it either.
For a third reader, where the writing is sodden or terrible, she skips chunks, if not the remainder, but must know the plot resolution. This is not my sin – where writing is that bad, I don’t care about the plot, either. Despite this, only in adulthood have I been able to walk away from a dreadful book. For years I was shackled to a tome, ’til death do us part. Finish one book before starting another. My new religion permits divorce. If it’s not working out, I walk away. My time is precious and there are too many good, unread, books out there. I play the field too, reading several books at the same time. Don’t tell my father.
I read the last page first so I can slow down and enjoy the journey. It started with Jane Austen. I was so anxious over Elizabeth and Darcy, I couldn’t savor the exquisite prose. I read the last page to reassure myself the Pride and Prejudice lovers would overcome the obstacles to chastely hold hands under a glorious Regency sunset. I could exhale, stop racing through pages, and enjoy Miss Austen’s rapier wit. Knowing the ending doesn’t ruin a story; it allows me to appreciate the writing. To be fair, I don’t always read the last page. With thrillers, I don’t want to know “whodunit.” I might, however, check in on the resolution of a “B-story”.
There’s an art to The Peek. You must select the right page, and the right excerpt. I want to be reassured, without giving everything away. I’ve caught myself physically squinting over a shoulder as I riffle through end pages, hoping to verify the continued aliveness of one character without spoiling other surprises. Anyone who has read Harry Potter can appreciate the need. E-readers have made it harder. Only once have I gone to the trouble of electronically dragging the ball to the end, to placate my concerns in Jacqueline Winspear’s newest Maisie Dobbs novel. With an e-reader, the cheat takes effort, akin to getting a motel room. With a physical book, you can claim “oops my eye just fell there,” like the slippery slope of “just one more drink”.
Is my act a cardinal sin? Maybe. But it’s done out of love. A relationship isn’t all about the sex. Plot isn’t everything. I want to appreciate a story’s words, phrases, and dialogue. The way it makes me go “hmmm.” I can’t do that barreling full speed, skipping ahead. It’s a compliment to the writer that her plot is so intense I can’t focus until I read the last page . . . even if I do it first.
Don’t agree with me? Blame Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling.
Browse inside What You Wish For. For more with Kerry Reichs, visit her website, become a fan on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.