Monday, March 16, 2009

Does It Just Elicit Strong Emotions, or Is It Emotional Manipulation?

I will not pretend. This book is utterly depressing from about page 5. It's also hauntingly beautiful, emotionally raw and pretty much impossible to put down.
What's the absolute worst thing you can imagine happening to you? What if it happened on your watch, seemed to be your fault? What if you still had hope that you could fix it, for a whole year, even though everyone else had lost hope? What if, after even you had given up hope too, you managed to right everything after all? Would it be enough to heal all the damage?

Abby thinks things are going perfectly. She's met an amazing man, who has an amazing daughter, and she's fallen in love with both of them. She and Jake are getting married soon, and he's even entrusted her to take care of Emma by herself for a weekend while he's gone. They're walking on the beach on a particularly foggy morning. Abby looks away to take a picture of something, and when she looks back, Emma's gone.

The emotional torment and tense, frantic searching comprise the rest of the book. Honestly, for most of the book, nothing happens. But the author keeps you eagerly turning pages, wondering and hoping if Emma might be found on the next page or in the next chapter. It is absolutely emotional manipulation, and a part of me dislikes my feelings being manhandled in such a fashion. But I kept reading the book, and I had a good cry at the end of it. That's two books in a row that have sent me to tears at the end...

As much as I enjoyed it, I'm not sure if I want to read more of Michelle Richmond's books. This is the second one I've read, and both were beautifully written and pretty upsetting at the same time. I don't know if I like having my feelings manipulated in that way. At the same time, I guess all books try to do that to a certain extent, and the visceral reaction she causes in me means that she's doing something very well, very successfully.

How about you guys? Ever read a book like that, one that you know is engineered to make you feel the depths of sadness, hopelessness, anger, ? How do you feel about it? Is it okay for an author to do that if it's well done, or is there a difference between writing a good story that causes emotion and writing a good story to intentionally cause emotion?

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