Monday, January 13, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars: A Review (of sorts)

 

Danger, Will Robinson!
This review (of sorts) is a rambling, depressing mess.
You. Have. Been. Warned.

link to GoodReads here

Sometimes I feel like a broken record when talking about my dad and his so-called battle with cancer. Most of the time, I feel like I'm stuck in this awkward silence wanting (yet not wanting) to share and having no clue how to begin.

Let's be frank, sharing with the internet your pain and suffering can come off as either a. look at me look at me, b. *emo in the corner,* or c. flippant, at best. Furthermore Susan, nobody really wants to hear about it. If they do, it's sorta okay to talk about it a little, but not too much. The line is extremely fine.

Yet, when you drop off the social media grid without preamble, how do you explain your sudden come back without mentioning the dreaded: Yeah, so, my dad died of cancer, and no, I don't want your pity, I just want to talk about it, cause it's sort of a big deal to me?

My struggles over the last two years with reading and writing and social media-ing have been directly related to the sudden loss of my father.

And somehow, the book The Fault in Our Stars got mixed up in my grieving process.

See, I'm a huge John Green fan. His writing is pristine. His sense of humor slays me. And when I read his books, I think "good Lord, I'd love to write a story even a tenth as good as this book." Needless to say that early in 2012, pre-ordering this book was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, it arrived on our doorstep the same day I got news my dad had a mass in his bladder and the doctor was saying it could be cancer. Not soon after, we had confirmation. Before we knew what was happening, he was in the ICU and we were learning his body was made of cancer.

Now, fast forward to April of 2012, when my dad was dead, and I was trying to get back into the swing of life, and this book mocked me from our bookshelf. Suddenly, cancer books made me angry and uncomfortable and I wasn't happy with Mr. Green for daring to write a cancer book.

Where did he get off? How dare he believe he could possibly understand. And why would he do this to his readers? Why make them suffer in ways no one should have to suffer? What joy could he possibly find in that?

It was sick. It was twisted. And I was pissed.

My negative feelings toward this book built up. Every time I looked at the book, I couldn't help but envision those last few moments we had with my father in the ICU as he took his final breath. And I wanted a direct phone line to Mr. Green so I could ask him how he felt qualified to define such a moment.

Which I know isn't fair, but feelings don't care about fairness.
They just feel.

Recently, I realized my anger toward this book wasn’t about Mr. Green or his rights (which, of course, he has the right to write any story he'd like), but it was about me and my pain and  my frustration. Somehow, I'd decided to attach to this novel my sorrow and rage over the loss of my father.

Misplaced? Yep.
Ridiculous? Heck, yeah.
Give me a little slack here. I’m a nerdy bookworm. Books are my lifeline.

So, now that I've read The Fault in Our Stars, every thing's better, right?
If only life was that simple.

I'll say this much:

This is a beautifully written book. A book about two people and their struggles with death and love and suffering and fairness and indignity and cancer. Cancer that tricky bastard who doesn't care about age or sex or good or bad or right or wrong. It doesn't think about tearing families apart, leaving young men fatherless and old men without their sons. It doesn't care about dignity or shame, love or pain. It just wants to live and grow and weed its way into the very fabric of our being. It leaves behind it a lasting legacy, one that just might outlast the human race.

For me, this is the cornerstone of Mr. Green's story. As I closed this book late last night and put it back on the shelf, I realized I felt both hopeful and destroyed. By reading this novel, I feel I've made some small progress. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to untangle my father's death from this book, but instead of fearing the association, I've found some peace in it.

Unknowingly, Mr. Green has given me a gift. It might not be a gift I wanted. It might not be a gift I understand. However, it is the gift I needed.

In the words of C.S. Lewis:

We read to know we are not alone.

After reading this book, I don't feel so alone.

12 comments:

  1. I know the bitterness and how dare you feeling that comes from a story being co-opted. I feel it whenever I think about reading one of those cancer memoirs or grief memoirs. I've felt it whenever I try to write my dad's story- a story that isn't mine to tell, yet a story that is in me to the very bone because I lived it, too, except I didn't, not in the same way he did. I don't want to work so hard for a book, or cry all the way through, which is why I never thought to pick up this book. But your review made me think that maybe it is time. A good cathartic cry caused by a focal point. A different grief from the one endlessly cycling around my head. And John Green, who is amazing in all the ways you say. Perhaps. Perhaps it is time to brave feeling hopeful and destroyed and jump in. Thanks. I think.

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    1. Oh dear! Maybe I should have added a disclaimer to this review (of sorts) in which I distance myself from any and all responsibilities of those who decide to read this book. *facepalm*

      I'm really not sure if I would ever recommend this novel to a friend, especially one who has experienced the death of a loved one. So, if you do decide to read it, here's my suggestions, tread lightly, have tissues on your person at all times, and find someone to read it with you. It makes a world of difference. *hugs*

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  2. No disclaimer necessary. I feel you were very clear about not recommending it to anyone who knows the insatiable devastation cancer wreaks. I absolve you of any and all responsibility for my own myopic need to poke at the grief in different ways and see what the results are- and to be fair it has been a few years. The grief is a different animal now, as evidence by the fact that I am flirting with even the possibility of reading this book. I wouldn't have finished reading the dust jacket, two or three years ago, even if it had been around. I jump into this knowingly and with a big box of tissues. Thank you for the advice about a reading buddy. I may just do that. The book will break me down and make me cry and from the arrogant, naive place of not having cracked the first page yet, I feel up for that challenge. But, your 'review' gives me hope that if I try I may come out the other side a mostly functioning human being. It is your bravery that is inspiring.

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    1. Okay. I've got nothing but hugs and best wishes. Oh, and some more tears. Thank YOU for your kind words. I'll be here with tissues and support.

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  3. Gosh. What an awfully ironic time to receive this book, eh? So sorry, Ang. :( I'm surprised you didn't throw the book down a dark hole. Gosh that review was wonderfully written. I'm glad that were finally able to read it though and it was able to help you even the tiniest bit. *hugs*

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    1. Yeah. We had a chat (the book & I) about how poor it's timing was and I might have flipped it off and screamed at it a lil. But that would be TOTALLY insane and something I probably shouldn't admit... so yeah. It didn't go down that way.

      Annnnd. I don't even know what to say about your compliment on this post. So I'm just gonna tear up and give you a hug, cool beans?

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  4. Simply put...I loved this post. The End.

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  5. I wonder if this book arrived at your doorstop exactly when it needed to. I just wonder. I had no idea the struggle you had surrounding this book. I am glad to see that in the end you don't hate John Green, and that this book was (for lack of a better word) a somewhat positive experience for you.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience with us.

    ~Sara @ Just Another Story

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    1. I never hated the author, but I did hate the book. However, if I'm honest, I really hated cancer and anything having to do with it. And I still do. That ain't ever going to change. But I'm getting better at not being ragey about it. ;)

      Oh the timing of this book. IT IS SO LUCKY I didn't trash it. Especially, since I just realized it's a signed copy. All this nonsense aside, Mr. Green truly is one of my all time favorites.

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  6. I'm keen to read this book, but like you nervous...my Mum's cancer spreads and progresses all the time, and there's nothing any of us can do. I know when I wrote my book, my nerves at anyone reading it were huge...as it deals directly with death, all the way through. Most of us suffer grief, through many different reasons, and putting it in words is hard. A friend of mine just read my book after the death of her father, and I was so scared, but her review was so beautiful. I've seen so many reviews about 'The Fault in our Stars' from it's amazing and beautiful, to it romanticising cancer and death...I'll have to read it and decide for myself!
    Thanks for your words about it Ang!

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    1. That breaks my heart about your mom, Lisa. I'm sending you all my prayers. *hugs*

      Reading books like TFIOS can be incredibly helpful to some while destructive for others. Honestly, I read this book because I was tired of being afraid of it, tired of being angry at it, and I was ready to move on. It's definitely been helpful in my grieving process. However, as of this moment in time, I have no intentions of seeing the movie. I'm leery about recommending this book. I will say this much, John Green is one of my all time favorite authors. Any book of his is worth reading in my mind (if you're a fan of YA contemporary). That's the main reason I read this book. If not for him, I would have passed without a backward glance.

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