01 June, 2011

Novellas, mothers, and reading

I read a tiny little book today. I guess it was a novella? Let me look up the definition of a novella vs. a novel.

From our friends at wikipedia:

A novella (also called a short novel) is a written, fictional, prose narrative longer than a novelette but shorter than a novel. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Awards for science fiction define the novella as having a word count between 17,500 and 40,000.[1] Other definitions start as low as 10,000 words and run as high as 70,000 words.[2][3][4]

This was definitely a novella, it was short, took me about an hour to read The Goodbye Quilt by Susan Wiggs. I picked it up because it was short, and the story was going to have something to do with quilting. Basically, Linda, a 40 something woman, is driving from Montana to New England with her 18 year old daughter - to drop said daughter off at college.

I give this an unreserved D-. It is not an exaggeration to say that all Linda does for the entire book is tell us, tell us again, and re-tell us that SHE IS A MOTHER. She's a mother who loves her daughter. Loves her fiercely, protectively, and wholly. She cannot imagine what she'll do when (sob) Molly leaves her. She wants her to get out there an live her own life, but at the same time she will miss being a MOTHER because BEING A MOTHER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN HER LIFE.

I am Mother hear me roar, In numbers too big too ignore!

I really felt for Molly. She was stuck for days in the car with her Mom, who was SO not ready to cut the cord. Maybe because I have only ever been the daughter in this scenario, and have never had to see the fruit of my loins pack to move out, but I was on Molly's side.

It made me think of when I was packing to move to Baltimore. I was super excited (and maybe completely terrified too) and my own mother sat on my bed, clutching a pillow, with her lip trembling, trying not to cry. At the time, I felt no sympathy. It just annoyed me that she was not completely turning cartwheels for me. I cruelly reminded her that as soon as she and Daddy got married, they moved to Indiana, and then SC, and had never returned to Texas, so couldn't she be happy for me? Didn't I deserve to go out and have some adventures?

I was not a kind child. Today I can at least see a little of it from her point of view now. It's normal to feel the way she felt, and to her credit, not once did she ever try to convince me to stay in Clemson. She helped me move, and was always encouraging during the difficult first year.

As I was looking at this tiny book, it also made me laugh, thinking about how our idea of a "readable" length changes. When we are small, just learning to read, the books are short, they have little text on each page, and lots of white space and pictures. My favorite book in 1st grade was a book called Summer, by Alice Low and Roy McKie.

In 2nd grade I moved on to longer stories, but the books were still quite small. Then we started what I'd call real books, though now they call them "Chapter books," I think. The Encyclopedia Brown books, The Great Brain, and Willy Wonka and the Great Glass Elevator. Anne of Green Gables, the Trixie Belden mysteries, and we can't forget Nancy Drew! The books get bigger and the print gets smaller.

A sixth grade reading of The Hobbit leads you into all three volumes of The Lord of the Rings, followed later that year by Gone With The Wind.

And then one day you are plowing through David Copperfield or The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with no feeling that the tome is too hefty! (But you do struggle to read Light in August the summer before your Senior year in high school - and once you have finished it, thanks to help from the good people of Cliff Notes, you strike a little Scarlett O'Hara attitude, "With God as my witness, I will never read Faulkner again!"

But for today, a tiny little novella was plenty!

1 comment:

  1. I'm never happy with the novella. I feel like they couldn't get it tight enough for a short story, but didn't have enough imagination to turn it into a book. Somehow I feel like it's a failure. Having said that I love "The Moon is Down" and that can't be much longer than a novella type length. Maybe I just read crap novellas and am bitter...