Getting It Wrong: When It Takes Time to Appreciate a Book

I am here to admit that I was wrong. Two years ago, when I reviewed The Leftovers, I found myself believing--believing strongly enough to write it down on the internet--that the book did not live up to its full potential. That while it had quiet moments of brilliance, those moments did not add up to something that, overall, was meaningful to me.

Two years later, I'm still thinking about that damn book. Unbidden, it pops into my head. Around the time when certain peoples kept predicting the rapture, I kept thinking about The Leftovers, and the insane, unconsidered consequences that disappearance can have. When three kidnapped girls emerged from Ariel Castor's basement after over a decade in captivity, I thought again of The Leftovers, of the struggle of the girls' families as they fought to cope with something that could never be explained. When I started reading Y: The Last Man, I again went back to The Leftovers, wondering how Perrotta's story might have differed if the disappearances had been consolidated to a specific trait: gender, as in Vaughn's series, or race, or religion, or belief, or geography, or any other characteristic.

I've long said that what I look for most in a book, any book, is its power to live on beyond the last page. Fiction or non, realism or fantasy, it doesn't matter: books make us think, make us reconsider our world and our lives, make us bigger than we were before we read them.

The Leftovers did just that. It just took two years for me to realize it, and the impetus of the upcoming HBO show to crystallize these thoughts. I was wrong, and I couldn't be happier about it. And I also can't wait for the series adaptation.

Have you ever gotten it wrong in your thoughts about a book? Which book?



8 comments

  1. Oh, I have OFTEN gotten it wrong about a book, and there are few things nicer than rediscovering a book you thought you didn't care for but actually you love it. I had The Secret History completely wrong in my head for years, but was so glad I eventually came back and reread it. It's terrific.

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  2. Yep. Having trouble calling up the book(s) right now, but some I've panned have really stuck with me in a way that others haven't.

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  3. I've definitely done that. I've also realized that my review of a book is sometimes vastly different if I wait a month or so to review it.

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  4. Yeah, that's happened to me too--though I can't recall the exact titles!

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  5. Isn't it strange how that happens? I like to think I'm more self-aware when it comes to my reading opinions, but books can be slippery like that.

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  6. Oh I LOVED The Secret History--so glad you gave it another shot!

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  7. Lisa Almeda SumnerJune 27, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    Yes! I think it is part of the blogging cycle for me. I read many books quickly (too quickly sometimes?). I don't review everything I read, but there are times when I wish I had taken more time to let the book "sit" in my mind. The best books are the ones that you keep thinking about and arguing with in your mind.

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  8. Absolutely! I really hated The Scarlet Letter in high school, but now I like it so much I named my blog after it.

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