For me, an important part of being a writer is being a reader. Some authors have disturbed my emotions in a way that is painful. I envy them, and I pray that God has given me that gift.
I read, for the second time, GO SET A WATCHMAN by Harper Lee. I went in circles trying to fight the urge to say the phrase, “I felt her pain.” I stopped when it occurred to me that there were no better words.
My breath grew labored when Jean Louise feared the woman she loved almost like a mother might hate her. I was slammed with her shock as she believed she could no longer respect her father, the only man she’d ever really trusted. I hurt with her loss when she was sure she could never again look into the eyes of the man she thought she might marry. And I breathed easier, my shoulders eased with relief, as she began to slog her way out of the weight that pressed her; as she began to discover, and grow, and her world expanded.
In an as-yet unpublished Christmas romance by one of my critique friends, I want to cry for the heartbreak as the couple separates for what they think is the last time. It hurts, even though, I confess, I looked ahead and learned there will be a happy ending.
THE TWILIGHT OF COURAGE by Bodie and Brock Thoene. My stomach clenches during World War II in France. In an overwhelming tank battle, there is too much killing going on for me to allow myself to grieve. Grieve I do, however, as a strong American woman, who runs an orphanage in Paris, angrily drives off a group of watchers from a young mother who refuses to let go of her dead baby. The harsh American woman turns soft as she offers words of love to the mother, holds her in her strong arms, and accepts the baby as the mother finally lets him go.
As the remaining 14 children and three adults from the orphanage try to flea Paris, I believe their miracle as they rescue a ship which was stolen from two of the children. The same American lady, daughter of a California sailor, moves them safely away from the bombs.
I’m having a hard time breathing again as a ship rescuing soldiers before the Germans enter France weaves back and forth to try to miss falling bombs from aircraft. As they wait to be hit, sailors continue to rescue men from the sea, medics continue to attend wounded men on the deck, and a chaplain hugs a dying man and tells him the words of Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Another not-yet published book by one of my critique partners talks about a fourteen-year-old girl and her new guardian. The child had been held captive and abused for years by a “trainer”. Her current guardian is forcing the girl to talk about her past. Though the writing is not graphic, and is handled delicately, it is so well done that I feel as if I want to throw up—I inwardly moan—as the young girl remembers.
In real life, I’m pretty crusty; it’s hard to bring me to tears. But these authors have made it happen. Do I want to hurt people who read my stories? In a way, yes. I want them to experience the world I create as close up and real.
I shamelessly ask God to give me this gift. I know that it takes hard work, and I believe I am willing to do that work. Yet I know it’s a gift.