Wednesday, June 19, 2019

When Book Worlds Collide: Unexpected Connections Between Fact and Fiction

Spoiler alert!

This post references pivotal information in two books: The Lost Man (Jane Harper) and No Visible Bruises: What We Don't Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us (Rachel Louise Snyder). 

If you do not want information, clues, observations, and possible plot complications revealed about either book, please stop reading now.

Seriously.


You have been warned.



This summer, I experienced an unanticipated book collision. Two recently released books on my nightstand could not have seemed more different on their faces.

One book is a novel written by an Australian woman that takes place in the Australian Outback. The third-person narrator is male, and most of the main characters are male. There are women in the story: family of the narrator and main characters, with only a few exceptions.

The other book is a non-fiction tome written by an American woman, a journalist. The main story, and much of the follow-up, take place in Montana, USA (so far; I am only halfway through the book). The main character, for lack of a better description, is female, as are the others — but males are almost evenly represented.

Two very different stages are set — but Harper's novel resolves itself, slowly and surely, with a storyline that profoundly crashes into Snyder's book.


Rachel Louise Snyder has written a remarkable book that examines domestic violence and asks crucial questions: What if we could end domestic violence? What if we gathered information, put all the pieces together, and could recognize it and prevent the chaos, death, and destruction it brings?

I have read about half of Snyder's book so far, and I am enjoying it (if one can say that about a book on the subject). It's gorgeously written with respectful and fair language. It is crisp and clear and very easy to read. I understand why it is on everyone's must-read list, and I am glad I put it on mine.

As I read No Visible Bruises, I also began reading Jane Harper's novel, The Lost Man — a book that was intended to be a distracting and relaxing murder-mystery. For me, murders that appear on the page are fictional, dry, and inconsequential beyond the story, so my fictional mind views mystery-fiction is a victimless crime.

In The Lost Man, Cameron breaks every rule that has kept him alive for decades in the Australian Outback. His family cannot understand how such a cautious man could have made such reckless decisions. The more they investigate, the more the clues don't point to the obvious resolution: Cameron did not commit suicide — which is the only reason a person would do what he did in mid-summer — but there was no other obvious conclusion.

The mystery behind Cam's untimely death unfolds carefully through the eyes of a reliable but wounded character, his brother Nathan. He and Cam had a troubling childhood with a cruel father and a helpless mother. Nate knew what that childhood had done to him, but he was too deep in his own pain to see what it did to the rest of his family.

Readers end with a different story than the one with which we began: a broken family that either doesn't know how or doesn't want to learn how to piece together the clues that will tell the whole tale. In the end, everyone has a piece of the puzzle, and it snaps into place with an earth-shattering, final click.

Snyder asks the same question Harper poses: if people talked to each other, snapped their puzzle piece into place earlier, could loss be averted? How many people does it take to head off tragedy?

I am reading Snyder's book slowly, but I look forward to continuing with rich language and excellent prose, clear and concise and direct. I also will continue to marvel at how two very diverse books came to the same conclusion, on opposite sides of the world, and in completely different genres.

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