Tuesday, June 14, 2011
TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Ten 'Awwww...! Moments' in Books.
I don't know, it all depends on how you interpret 'Awww...!' There are cute 'Awww....!' moments and sad, even tragic 'Awwww....!' moments and happy, smiling-through-tears 'Awwww.....!' moments. Keeping all that in mind, here are my choices.
Oh, before we go any further, TOP TEN TUESDAY is the weekly fun meme hosted by the gals at THE BROKE AND THE BOOKISH. Check out the link to see who and what other book bloggers are talking about in today's meme topic: Top Ten 'Awww...!' Moments.
Here's my current list:
1) THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY by Robert J. Waller.
Not a great book by any means, but quite good enough for what it is. I was tricked into reading it because of my gullibility. A friend assured me it had a happy ending. I hadn't read any reviews, but in general had a vague idea what it was all about. Didn't want to read it because I suspected everyone came to a bad and lonely end. Boy, was I right. Ha!
I'm going to assume that most of you know what the book is about, don't want to go into any long-winded explanations if I can avoid it. This list is going to run long enough, I'm afraid.
Two tremendously sad 'awww.....!' moments in the book. First: Francesca in the truck with her husband and they, coincidentally, pull up behind Kincaid in his pick-up at a light on a rainy day. It is the day he is headed out of town - once he makes the left turn he is lost to her forever. She debates (internally) whether she should simply open her door and join Kincaid in his truck and leave her life behind. Ultimately, she stays put. Kincaid knows she is behind him in her vehicle, he waits at the light - even once it turns green - waits and waits until finally he must make the left as other cars begin honking including Francesca's husband who is clueless to his wife's heartbreaking indecision.
Second moment: Near the end when Francesca, widowed and having been unable to find Kincaid (though I often wonder if she really tried hard enough) receives a large package in the mail one day. She opens it and finds Kincaid's camera equipment. Instantly she and we know he is dead. At this point I threw the book across the room and cursed my friend to the high heavens. I cried for an hour.
There is also a letter in the box - if I'm remembering correctly - that tells her he remained faithful to her, Francesca, for twenty years. You wonder why I cried for an hour?
2) THE VELVETEEN RABBIT by Margery Williams.
A bittersweet sad and happy and all around cute 'awww....!' moment. When one of the toys - I think another rabbit or maybe a 'skin' horse (I'm going from memory here) says to the velveteen rabbit, "I was made real a long time ago." Yegads, I cry each and every time. Read the book to your kids. Read it for yourself. It is a life lesson, a lesson in the 'truth' of imagination, disguised as a children's book. But please read it with the original illustrations.
3) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen.
Everyone's favorite 'aww....!' moment when Mr. Darcy is forced against his better judgement and all that he holds psychologically and emotionally near and dear, to make his stiff-necked proposal to Miss Elizabeth Bennett and she, rightly so, turns him down in a terse, bitter little speech that cuts Darcy off at the knees. I mean, touche, Miss Elizabeth.
4) The lines near the end of the first Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel, THE MONKEY'S RAINCOAT by Robert Crais, coming at a moment when we do not know if Pike will make it. (Crais said in an interview that he seriously thought about letting Pike die at the end of the first book. Boy am I glad he relented.) If you know my fervor for these books, it began with this very first one.
Pike put the key in the lock and opened the door. A short Mexican with a broad face and a gray zoot suit took one step out, pushed a gold Llama automatic into Pike's chest, and pulled the trigger. There was a deep muffled POP, then Pike came up and around with his right foot faster than I could see. There was a louder sound, what you might hear if you drop an overripe casaba melon onto a tile floor. The Mexican collapsed, his neck limp. Pike looked down at himself, put a hand over a growing spot high and to the right of his chest, then sat down. "Keep going," he said. "Get the kid."
Later, the last paragraph in the book:
I stood there, breathing deep and looked at Pike's jeep. Even in the dark, I could see it was a mess, muddy and streaked and dusty. I found a self-wash on Ventura Boulevard that was still open, and worked there until the Cherokee sparkled. Then I rolled down the windows and drove slowly in the cool fresh air, drove back to the hospital to wait for Joe Pike.
I've reminded R.C. of the gold Llama automatic a couple of times. How it resonates in my imagination as part and parcel of the myth of Joe Pike.
5) Whenever, in any of the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde, Thursday's pet dodo Pickwick appears and makes her little 'plunk, plunk' noises, I always go, "awww.....!" But not out loud.
6) A scene very early in the first Chet and Bernie book, DOG ON IT by Spencer Quinn. A series narrated by Chet who is canine in every sense of the world except that he is able to narrate the adventures he shares with his master/friend/owner Bernie, a down-on-his-luck detective.
Bernie was gazing up at the sky. A beautiful night - soft breeze, lots of stars, lights twinkling down the canyon, and what was this? A new tennis ball on the lawn. I went over and sniffed it. Not one of mine, not anyone's I knew.
"Wanna play fetch?"
I pawed the thing. How did it get here? Cooped up all day, but I'd kept an ear cocked; except for when I dozed off, of course.
"Bring it here, Chet."
I didn't want to, not with this stranger's smell on it.
But I never said no to Bernie. I gave the ball a lick or two, making it mine, then took it over to Bernie and dropped it at his feet. Bernie reared back and threw the ball up the canyon road.
"Uh, oh - where'd it go?"
Where'd it go? He really couldn't see it? That never failed to surprise me, how poorly he saw after the sun went down. I tore after the ball, bouncing up the middle of the road in plain sight, got my back feet way forward and sprang, totally airborne, snaring it on the short hop, the way I like, then wheeling around in one skidding motion and racing full speed, head low, ears flattened by the wind I was making, and dropped it at Bernie's feet, putting on the brakes at the last moment. If you know something more fun than this, let me in on the secret.
"I never say no to Bernie." That's what makes me go 'awww.....!" That and the sheer joy that Chet feels in being alive. This is the truth of dogs, in fact and fiction.
7) In my favorite Jayne Ann Krentz's contemporary romance/mystery GRAND PASSION, there is a definite 'awww....!' moment when the hero, an enigmatic loner named Max Fortune (Krentz has a thing for quirky character names) knowing he has failed on an important errand, assumes he will be asked to leave the small hotel on the Pacific coast in which he's found friendship, trust and even love for the first time in his life. He is convinced that failure to bring back the goods, failure to achieve the task he was charged with, will guarantee that everyone there will turn their backs on him. This is what he's learned in life. As long as he delivers, he is accepted. Fail to deliver, and out the door he goes. Such a sad philosophy.
But when he returns, hours later, from the errand, the women waiting for him welcome him back and even though he keeps saying he's failed at his task, they tell him it's okay he did his best. This comes as a revelation to him and is a true 'awww.....!' moment - at least for me. To see this strong, inflexible man learn that people can still appreciate and love him despite having 'failed'. (He'd even gone ahead and packed his suitcase in anticipation of being asked to leave.) A real emotional 'aha!' moment. I love this book.
8) In another favorite romance tale, THE WEDDING, a Regency from the wonderful hand and imagination of the late Edith Layton (if you love romances and haven't read Layton yet, you're in for a treat), the heroine, Dulcie Dawn Blessing - fresh out of debtor's prison - shows up at the most inconvenient time to scotch the wedding plans of the hero, Crispin West, Viscount West of Darnley Hall. Through machinations too complex to go into here, she has paperwork showing she is the wife of the Viscount even as he is prepared to become betrothed to his life-long love, Lady Charlotte Barrington.
It's all something about a few coins changing hands while West was supposed to sign a false name, marry Dulcie and get her out of prison (but West forgets himself for a moment and signs his real name to the wedding contract, uh, oh.) - read the book if you want the details - West needed some money at the time because his fortunes had taken a down turn and Dulcie needed saving.
Anyway, his fortunes returned to their proper place a bit later, he is back on top of the world and ready to marry for real when Dulcie shows up. Part of the following conversation takes place between Dulcie, the Viscount and the Viscount's friend, the Earl of Wrede.
"You didn't mean that I should just go away, so you could marry in peace!" she said with a gasp. "How could I leave it at that? I'd never be at peace, nor would I be able to marry. I do want to marry some day. It may be fine for a nobleman to commit bigamy, but I assure you, to the people I associate with, it is not. Or, at least," she added, irresistibly honest, as usual, "to the people I hope to be associating with, it is not."
"It is not precisely 'fine' for people of our rank, either. I assure you," the Earl said with a little smile...
"....Never fear, I won't let him murder you, my dear," Wrede [the Earl] said helpfully, smiling at her so warmly she couldn't help but give him a shy smile in return.
"Awww....!" Love the Earl even if he's not the hero of the piece.
9) In THE WOMAN IN WHITE by Wilkie Collins, a book I am currently finishing up, there is a sad, heartfelt moment in the first third of the book when Walter Hartright, the lowly drawing master must bid goodbye to his true love Laura Fairlie who, as an heiress, is miles above him in class and station and anything else you can think of that would distinguish a young woman from a young man of 'lowly' birth forced to earn a living in Victorian society. Both these characters realize they've fallen in love but dare not speak of their predicament or of their emotions or of the apparent societal danger should their association continue. On top of the society thing, she is already betrothed to another man. Hartright must leave the house after the three happiest months of his life. He must do this without declaring himself or giving voice to his feelings. He must do this because, despite his birth, he is a gentleman in spirit and a decent human being in breeding. Oh, your heart breaks for Hartright and his pupil. "Awww....!"
10) BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN by Annie Proulx, is the tragic story of two young men, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist - who unexpectedly fall in love one summer when they're hired to herd sheep on government land in Wyoming. Near the achingly sad ending, we learn in these few sparse sentences from Jack Twist's own memory - of an unexpectedly important moment in his life. The rest of the story is told mostly from Ennis Del Mar's point of view, so this departure into Jack's memory calls definite attention to itself.
What Jack remembered and craved in a way he could neither help nor understand was the time that distant summer on Brokeback when Ennis had come up behind him and pulled him close, the silent embrace satisfying some shared and sexless hunger.
They had stood that way for a long time in front of the the fire, its burning tossing ruddy chunks of light, the shadow of their bodies a single column against the rock. The minutes ticked by from the round watch in Ennis's pocket, from the sticks in the fire settling onto coals. Stars bit through the wavy heat layers above the fire. Ennis's breath came slow and quiet, he hummed, rocked a little in the sparklight and Jack leaned against the steady heartbeat, the vibrations of the humming like faint electricity and, standing, he fell into a sleep that was not sleep but something else drowsy and tranced until Ennis, dredging up a rusty but still usable phrase from the childhood time before his mother died, said, "Time to hit the hay, cowboy. I got a go. Come on, you're sleeping on your feet like a horse," and gave Jack a shake, a push, and went off in the darkness. Jack heard his spurs tremble as he mounted, the words "see you tomorrow," and the horse's shuddering snort, grind of hoof on stone.
Later, that dozy embrace solidified in his memory as the single moment of artless, charmed happiness in their separate and difficult lives.
Apologies for running on so long, but I didn't know how to deal with this meme topic in any other way.