Abandonment issues: Read it or leave it?

When one thinks of abandonment, it is likely to bring to mind being jilted by a lover, or being left alone as a child. Generally, it is not thought of as a good thing.

But I contend that sometimes, knowing when to leave – and then actually following through on it – can be a very good thing.

I am referring to the shameful behavior of choosing not to finish a book you started. There are those among us who would consider that downright promiscuous behavior, equating an uncommitted reader to that of an unfaithful lover. I am, however, not one of those people. Quite the opposite, really.

Of course I want to honor the author, who no doubt sacrificed much of his or her life charting a plot and carefully structuring sentences that might provoke readers to neglect their jobs and families so they can read just one more page. I have been that person, and I have read those books – but I could count them on one hand.

And the thing is – those riveting books are different for everyone. An engrossing page-turner for one person may provoke a ho-hum response from someone else. I have read some disturbing and totally unsatisfying best-sellers, like “The Tale of Edgar Sawtelle” (Ecco, 2009) by David Wroblewski, and also read some little-known books that changed my life, such as “The Difference Maker” (Nelson Business, 2006) by John C. Maxwell. It’s best not to judge people by what they like to read.

What do you do when you eagerly pick up a new book and want so much to fall in love with the story, but 100 pages into it, you still don’t feel that gush of euphoria you so desperately need to get you through your otherwise unhappy life? (That is a lot of pressure to put on an author!)

Well, my advice is to abandon it. And I don’t mean just drift away from it, wallowing in a mire of residual guilt. I mean decide that you will seek happiness elsewhere. Don’t keep it around the house as a constant reminder of your inability to commit and your wavering loyalty. That, my friend, is the gateway to years of therapy in an effort to resolve your eroding self-image.

I realize that there are at least two camps on this subject: those who will happily walk out of a bad movie or get rid of a book, with the attitude, “It’s bad enough I threw money at this, I am sure not throwing my time at it as well” (moi), and those dedicated to summoning the effort to complete everything they start, proudly displaying great intestinal fortitude.

I’m just saying … I really do applaud those never-give-up readers and in some ways wish I were more like them. It’s kind of a catch-22 – neither way seems totally admirable. In fact, the book “Catch-22” (Simon & Schuster, 1961) by Joseph Heller, according to the website, is the book most commonly not finished by readers. I think that’s kind of ironic.

Sharon Lennox-Infante, a Los Altos resident, is contributing editor for Book Buzz.

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