Monday, October 17, 2011

Books That Haunt Me

By Sue Ann Jaffarian
I’m going off the reservation a bit here because I so loved last week’s question (what book surprised you this year) and wanted to answer it.  Then I got to thinking, instead of writing about books that surprised me, how about naming the books I’ve read that have haunted me over the years.  After all, this is October and Halloween is just around the corner.
By haunting I’m not talking about ghost books, I’m talking about themes, settings, plots, characters or wording that entered my brain and refused to let go. These books will live in my head forever, sometimes not for the best of reasons, but still they stay. Some are cherished loved ones and others annoying house guests that won’t leave.
Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre.  I read this book when it was first released in 1975, when I was in my early twenties.  It’s an excellent book chronicling the events surrounding India’s independence. What haunts me about this book is the brutality humans visit upon each other (which still continues today), but the specific scene that continues to give me unrest 36 years later is one involving the butchering of children. What makes it worse is that this isn’t a novel.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.  I loved this book. It’s a memoir of McCourt’s growing up in poverty in Ireland. I laughed and cried, but what struck me is how McCourt’s mother, Angela, kept the family together and gave them purpose and hope for the future in spite of living in abject squalor.

Where Serpents Lie by T. Jefferson Parker.  I recently mentioned this book on my personal blog about manifestations of fear.  Just mentioning the title makes me mentally curl into the fetal position.  An enormous snake is fed people – enough said.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  Unlike the others mentioned here, this was a recent read. Even though I’m not a big fan of Sci-Fi, this book came highly recommended by many of my author friends, so I just had to take a peek and see what all the hoopla was about. I started reading and didn’t stop until I had finished the entire trilogy. Although I thought the series lessened in quality by the third book, I continue to think about this dark book, the characters, and the nature of survival at all costs.
The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton. I sobbed through this book and can still hear the slow but hopeful Ruth in my head as she travels through her dismal and tragic life.
The World According to Garp by John Irving.  Another book from my twenties that I still love. Thirty years after reading it, I will still sniffle when I remember Walt’s death, and whenever I sense danger, watch out for the undertoad runs through my mind.

I could add more, but these are the standouts.

What books haunt you? I really want to know.


Meredith Cole said...

Great list, Sue Ann! Thanks for the reminder to read The Hunger Games. In January, when I'm done with my assigned reading list, I want to read it.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami is a book that still haunts me... Wonderful imagery.

gregkshipman said...

Stellar list, Sue Ann...

I have many books that stay with me... one book that haunts me; so much so that I have three copies in my book shelves because I push the book to the younger male members of my family.

'Manchild in the Promised Land' escorted me to Vietnam in 1969, rode in my backpack on jungle outings and celebrated with me on the 'Freedom Bird' back to the 'world'. No book (author) has ever said as much to me.

Claude Brown wrote his story, my story and thousands of other's stories. Though black and growing up in Harlem, the book transcended race... it was about deprevation, culture, bad roads, wrong roads and struggling out of the wilderness.

That damned book kicked my ass into college, forced me to recognize the world (rather than a black world versus a white world) and it gave me a 'primer' I could always refer to when the bumpy got bumpier...

Valentina Hepburn said...

Brilliant suggestions. Angela's Ashes is a wonderful book, and one I read over and over. One book that gets to me is Adriana Trigiani's Lucia, Lucia. I read that some think it's whimsical, but--the voice that tells the story is just amazing. Makes me laugh and cry, as does Jane Ayre and Memoirs of a Geisha. It's the voice that gets to me, always the voice.