I read Sophie Kinsella books the same way that some people might eat a snickers bar, quickly, greedily with an undefinable aftertaste. Finishing a Kinsella novel is like coming off of a candy bar induced sugar high. Despite the fact that I love her writing, there’s something about the characters that always irks me. She takes you so completely inside their heads that I feel trapped and want to escape. The words are so fast paced, their minds are always racing. It gets chaotic and I like order.
I was sitting in my family’s nicest chair near the window reading Remember Me? on my kindle. Suddenly, I realized something, the reason that these books get so difficult for me to read is because I think that I know better than the characters and I want them to listen to my advice. The characters can’t. Even if they could, they’d continue their own strong willed journey.
It’s a reflection of life in general, isn’t it? You’re listening to your friend talk about their problems and all of a sudden you get an overwhelming urge to tell them ‘DO THIS!’ As if you were the one who knew the answer and held the key. You know it’s not true, but it just might be.
In Remember Me? Lexi gets three years of her memory erased after getting into a car accident and wakes up to discover that her entire life has changed. Her husband is gorgeous, but she doesn’t know anything about their relationship. She loves her new, thin body with veneered teeth and chestnut hair. Although everything seems brilliant on the outside, she can’t understand what’s going on. While I was reading, I kept finding myself telling her what to do and judging her. I got annoyed at Lexi for not enjoying her new life and for not allowing the events to unfold. I felt that she was so controlling of her current situation. She wanted to know exactly what to do, but I knew it would be better if she let go.
Guess what? Everything seemed to work out for her in the end.
Walking around the day after finishing the book, I realized that reading Kinsella’s novels is the perfect time for me to practice non-judgement. I don’t want to need an opinion on everything I see. I want to be able to simply be with the world around me without analyzing it to death. If I can’t accept a book character for who they are, then how can I accept a real person who is entirely more nuanced?
Luckily, I got a chance to do so straight away whilst reading The Un-Domestic Goddess. Straight from the start, Samantha’s hectic schedule was getting me down, winding up my mind and sending my thoughts into a frenzy. Take a break, practice yoga, meditate, I thought. And then, I took a break, I paused and just let myself read without feeling like I needed to control the characters.
There’s a great quote (that yes, I wrote in my quote journal) that says sometimes the best way to show your love for someone is to let them fail (I’m paraphrasing hugely). If I want to practice that principle in my real life, stepping back and allowing people to take the reins of their futures, then I need to be able to practice that when reading (or writing, or watching television) as well.
These characters are brilliantly brought to life. When I allow myself to calm down and simply observe their lives, I get a greater sense of who I am as a person. That is, after all, the reason that we keep coming back to fiction; because we’re able to see situations played out that we can compartmentalize later. We don’t have to obsess over not getting the job, losing the boyfriend or losing our memory. We’re able to close the cover and act as if it never existed. Sure, your fourth grade teacher may have told you that the mark of a good reader is someone who thinks about a book’s protagonist as they are walking down the street, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. I don’t need or want to take on any problems. I read, and I am a good reader whatever that means, because I can separate my life from what’s written on the page.
Do you find yourself getting irritated by book characters? How do you practice non-judgement?