As I’m well on my way through Devotion, I’ve started to notice a commonality between all the books I’ve read so far during this project. In one way or another, a dead parent factors in to each and every one of them. This from a list of books from my own mom who recently passed away.
In Devotion, a memoir, author Dani Shapiro frequently mentions how the death of her father when she was just 23 years old shaped her life. It changed her from a rebellious, confused young woman into the adult she would become. From that moment on, she explains, she often governed her life thinking, “What would my father want me to do?” (It’s a feeling I’m beginning to relate to.)
King Dork similarly focused on the main character’s parent’s death. Tom Henderson’s dad died when he was eight – before he even really got to know him as anything other than just a dad. So, when Tom stumbles upon a collection of his dad’s old books, books with notes and scribbles in them, it’s an opportunity to learn more about his dad as a person.
The death of a parent isn’t quite as much of a focus in Shanghai Girls and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but it’s definitely still a major presence. I won’t explain more to avoid giving away the plots, but it’s there and I noticed.
Is this some sort of otherworldly experience? Probably not. I shouldn’t be so surprised by this common thread in the books. Yes it seems eerie in light of the fact that these recommendations come straight from my mom. But, if I think about it objectively, don’t most books center around a crisis? That’s what makes a good book good: drama, tension, emotion. It just so happens these are things I’ve never felt so personally.
This particular tragedy may have always been there, but I’m just now noticing.