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Pickle Me This

April 18, 2017

Mixed Reviews

My book has been rendered as jewelry, bunting, a cross stitch pattern and cookies, and now its latest incarnation is as a wood carving. Seriously. My best friend’s mom made it for me and it has a spine and everything, and it’s pretty much mind-blowing. I never imagined that such a thing could exist, but it’s perfect. So many good people have ensured that this experience of publishing a book is one that is rich with delight.

Although just being read is almost more than a person can ask for. It’s huge, really, to have someone take the time to enter your fictional universe and spent awhile inside a story you invented a few summers ago. When readers have done so and understood exactly what I’m going for, it’s means everything. I have had the fortune of really positive reviews, and as a book blogger it’s been a particular pleasure to have writers I admire, such as Steph and Rohan, review my book with such care and respond with such insight. Not all readers have been as enthusiastic, some for precisely the reasons I’d anticipated and wrote the book intentionally for—I wanted to a difficult protagonist who never learns her lessons. And if that is the basis of a reader’s criticism, then at least they’re reading the book I wrote, and I still appreciate that.

(It’s also illuminating to learn that Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, which is my very favourite book in the whole world, has critical reviews on Goodreads. If this is the case, it is possible there is nothing worth worrying about ever again because the world is that unfathomable…)

In terms of being reviewed, however, I have just discovered that the most fascinating experience of all of them is the critical reviewer who reads your book so well but in ways you never anticipated. The reviewer whose interpretation, it turns out, can broaden your perspective on the very book your wrote—how cool is that? What I got up to in the book wasn’t quite her jam, and the reviewer isn’t wrong in her interpretation. The part that surprised me the most was when she wrote about her disappointment in the ending, that Sarah permits her husband to validate her identity. I’d never considered that the book could be read that way. My own idea is that she isn’t asking him to validate her identity—she’s pretty secure in who she is, but the experiences in the novel rattle her security in her relationship (and for good reasons—they’ve got a communication problem). So when he tells her that he needs her, it’s underlining the foundation of their family, which is important. But the fact of her identity, in my opinion, is never really up for debate: she knows who she is (and this is part of the reason her husband loves her). Moreover, she likes who she is and I’m imagining that now being able to own her authorial identity of Mitzi Bytes and reconcile her two selves will be a positive step forward. I see the end of the novel as her beginning: she’s going forth into the world and she’s even going to sign her name to things. A writer has been born—for real. While it’s true that she’s the centre of their home life, as her husband tells her, she’s the centre of a lot of things. And for the first time in her life, she’s going to attempt to bring all those things together.

…Which doesn’t really matter, of course, is that’s not what the reader read. But that’s the beauty of books, I think, the infinite possibilities and interpretations contained within. It’s fascinating to me how being an author and being read is such a process of discovery. That every time a person reads my book, it’s a new book every time.

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Mitzi Bytes

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