finally falling for the boy with the bread
I might be a walking cliché right now, but I just finished reading the Hunger Games series, and I am a ball of emotions. Sad that the story is over and that I’ve lost this interesting group of well-developed “friends.” Surprised that even though I had, at times, immense criticism of the story-line and writing, I still believe it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever read, if not straight up one of the most eerily timely stories being told today. And, maybe most strongly, I am feeling settled.
I was so afraid I wouldn’t like the ending, that Katniss would somehow morph into this superhero leader and the whole country would come together under a banner of love, peace and unity. Because, neither of those things would be real. Katniss was never a leader – she was almost entirely driven by guilt, fear and indebtedness. She was brave, but everything was thrust upon her. She didn’t easily or hardly ever even voluntarily choose her greatness. And I just really couldn’t see it ending with her taking the reins and making strong, powerful and healthy decisions. And she didn’t – she had an impulsive and purely emotional reaction to a moment, and her fate was decided for her. I truly appreciate the intellectual honesty of the end of Katniss’ story in that way.
And seriously, thank god Suzanne Collins didn’t finish the book with a kumbaya moment in Panem. After nearly a century of oppression and mistrust of the government and pitting entire populations against each other, you can’t just have a rebellion and make things whole again. I so appreciated Plutarch saying “Now we’re in that sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated. But collective thinking is usually short-lived. We’re fickle stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.” Ummm, not what any romantic wants to believe after the Hunger Games and pods and Peacekeepers and hijacking. But the thing is, it’s the truth, isn’t it? We can’t seem, as a species, to tire of war. We create enemies as if it’s necessary and we always buy into the story that’s fed to us. So yeah, chances are Plutarch will get to film more battles. And again, I appreciate the honesty.
Finally, and this may be the most controversial reaction for the non-adolescent set who aren’t dreamy-eyed and emotionally fickle – but I truly think, the only good in the end for Katniss, was Peeta. And I don’t mean that because he was always trying to save her life, or had puppy-dog eyes, or because he held her in the night on the train when she had nightmares. And I don’t really mean it because they had shared experiences. Katniss’ experiences and losses threatened over and over again to take control of her life. To fully consume her, either into death, or into a deep depression where she would become unreachable. And I think, as humans, our natural tendency is to feed that fear and anger and hurt. It is easier to be in relationship with hurting and damaged people when you’re hurting and damaged than it is to seek out the light. But Peeta was Katniss’ light. He brought her hope, and he allowed her to relax and find a form of happiness. I had tears streaming down my face as I read the last paragraph:
That what I need to survive is not Gale’s fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that.
To me, this was Katniss finding her true inner strength. Making a fully healthy decision for her future, and acting from a place of light inside of herself. Allowing herself to come out of her darkness that trapped her and made her feel as if she had caused the death of everyone she loved. To go on, and live, and even believe in goodness, maybe even inside of herself. I admire that courage, because I know it’s not easy. She probably would never have found it without Peeta, and that they could live their futures together bringing hope, light and eventually more life into the world was the most beautiful part of the story.
I read this quote by one of my favorite authors, James Baldwin, a few days ago –
You think your pain and heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.
Ever since, I’ve been collecting a mental list of all the books, poems, and short stories that have moved me, caused me to feel greater joy or pain, because the honesty of the words and emotion spoke to something inside of me. So here is my list, extremely incomplete, but a start.
Please, tell me yours at the end. I’d love to read more.
John Irving, The Cider House Rules – I connected with so many emotions in this book – particularly feeling lost, not knowing exactly how I fit into my community and family – but there is a line when Angel is born, “And so a baby was born who was neither an orphan or an abortion” and when I read it, and now every time I think it, I am filled with hope.
Joan Didion, Blue Nights – An extremely raw and difficult memoir about the loss of Didion’s daughter. All of the doubt and regret Didion experienced, not for her daughter’s death, but for all that she may have missed in her daughter when she was alive – this all spoke to my own (sometimes) extreme regret and guilt I have surrounding the loss of my gammy. And for the brief time it took to read the book, I didn’t feel alone.
John Irving, A Widow for One Year – I know, two books by John Irving? But seriously, he’s amazing. This is a story of a girl who has lost more than she deserved to lose, who wanted only to have her mother in her life, and as I read the last 9 lines of the book, I burst out sobbing with joy. I can’t tell why, in case you haven’t read it. So read it.
Jennifer Weiner, Good in Bed – It is total chick-lit, but it’s good chick-lit. And when the heroine gets terrible news, she goes for walks, she spaces out, doesn’t know how long she’s been gone. She’s depressed and doesn’t know how to work it out. It’s rough, because at this point in the book, you love her. But it’s also rough because, if you’ve ever been there, you understand the long walks, the checking out. And it is hard. And the book handles it with honesty and humor.
Thinkingtoohard, The Lights are Dim – She is a beautiful and expressive blogger who loves dogs. This story is heart-breaking and filled with love. I have it saved on my computer, for those moments when I am so in love with Lola that I start to cry.
Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin – I am in love with this book. As soon as the pain of the first read subsides, I will read it again. And many more times I am sure. There is something moving about the beauty still found in the tragedy of the heroine’s life. Everyone in the story betrays someone else, the heroine has many regrets and experiences too much loss, but yet, there is still something that gives hope and meaning to her life. Maybe it is the telling of the story in the first place. Maybe that is why I am writing here, at all. It is a sad and beautiful story that connected me to my past and future as a woman, to the loss of people and expectations, and to my hope in ultimately something good happening in this world.
It is getting late, and I must make dinner. Let’s have a conversation. I want to know what writing speaks to you and connects you. I will leave you with this last one:
Howard Moss, The Pruned Tree – I first read this poem almost two years ago. It has helped me heal, and was brought into my life at the exact right time. These words are my breath many days:
As a torn paper might seal up its side,
Or a streak of water stitch itself to silk,
And disappear, my wound has been my healing,
And I am made more beautiful by losses.