I’ve been updating my various networking sites in an effort to position myself for becoming a bestselling author. (Even though my new book on grief hasn’t yet been written, I need to believe that it will be a success, otherwise my old friend futility will begin banging on the inside of my head, and the book will never get written.)
Although I try not to read reviews (that’s a lie, actually; it’s hard not to want to know what people think and it’s even harder to overcome the need to feel validated in some way) I found a one star review for Unfinished. One star? Eeek!
The woman claimed that the book was not at all what she thought it was, that there was too much about the character’s grief. I’m not surprised. We do not often read about a character going through the trauma of grief. In fact, one of the many reasons I began writing about my grief (and why I specifically wrote Unfinished) is the lack of grief I found in fiction. In one book I tried to read after Jeff died, a woman’s husband was murdered, and the widow cried for a single night, decided that was enough, and set out to find the killer. No other mention of grief in the book at all.
In a second book I tried to read around that same time, a woman’s husband died, and the only acknowledgment of her grief was a single sentence: She went through all five of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief.
In the third book I tried to read, the main character was a grieving widow with a young daughter, and the only indication of their grief was a conversation about how the two needed to be strong and not cry.
Up to then reading had been my life, but after those experiences, I gave up reading for many years. There has to be something in a book that resonates, and nothing anyone wrote resonated with me as a griever. Hence, Unfinished.
Another point the reviewer made was the unbelievability of a woman having a cyber affair while her beloved husband lay dying. Actually, this says more about the reviewer and her unfamiliarity with a dying mate than it does about my writing. Anyone who has had the care of long-dying mate knows the insanity of one’s thoughts (and actions). Mostly, I was numb, going through the motions of living, though there were times I hated Jeff. There were times I wished he’d hurry up and die and get it over with. There were times I desperately needed to get a start on living my life without him. There were times I wondered who that silent graying man was, and how I ended up with him. There were times I bristled when he “lectured” me. (Although we didn’t know it, his brain was clouded with cancer metastases. Since this made him unable to hold more than a single thought in his head, the fabulous, wide-ranging conversations that formed the basis of our shared life were . . . simply gone.)
And that was our life for a year, two years, eternity — me struggling to live while he struggled to die.
A few weeks before he died, during a time of clear thinking, he reached out to me. We had a long, wide-ranging talk about us, our shared dreams that never came true, the future we’d never have — oh, so many things — and I fell in love with him all over again.
Six weeks later, he died, and grief slammed into me with a force I could not have ever imagined. (Think of grief as a proliferation of emotional, physical, spiritual, mental line drawings, one piled on top of the other so densely that all you see is solid black. Then try picking out each of those images from the totality. Grief is that immense.)
Although I thought someone (well, me) should write a novel about a widow trying to deal with the practicalities of life while undergoing such trauma, I hesitated for many years. I didn’t expect people to like such a raw book. And I knew it wouldn’t change anything. People who knew grief didn’t need to be shown what it was like. People who didn’t know grief wouldn’t believe it or would find it oppressive, so I do understand the reviewer’s comments.
What I don’t understand is her complaint of too many typos, missed words, and writing mistakes.
Huh? Typos are a fact of writing, and though we do our best, as do our copy editors, typos do creep in. But writing mistakes? I don’t make writing mistakes. If it’s in the book, it’s meant to be there.
Being the rather obsessive person I am (and rather demoralized), last night I went through the book again, and I did find a couple of typos. (One of which I already knew about.) But writing mistakes? The only thing I can think of are the letters the dying fellow wrote to his wife that she found after his death. Yes, there were mistakes, but they were the character’s mistakes, not mine. (For example, he complained about his “stupefried” brain.) In fact, I thought the letters were too cohesive considering the cancer in his brain and all the drugs he was on, but the letters needed to be understandable. (I kept a note Jeff wrote the last night he was home, but I haven’t a clue what it says.)
I do think it’s unfair of folks to complain about typos and then not list them to give me a chance to get them corrected. So, if you ever read a book of mine, and find typos, please let me know what they are. Such errors are inadvertent, and are not meant to taunt you. I promise.
If you are the person who wrote the review, I appreciate your taking time to post your thoughts. I don’t mean to be disrespectful in this rebuttal, and in fact, I don’t normally write rebuttals since it is unprofessional, but I needed to write this. Blogging is how I “unobsess” about things, and I cannot allow myself to believe what you wrote, otherwise I would be too discouraged to write my new book on grief, and it does need to be written.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.
July 1, 2018 at 2:22 pm
I’m with you, this reviewer seems pretty naive. I’ve read plenty of Dear Abby letters over the years where the writers were considering or having affairs while their partners were dying. They’re emotionally drained from taking care of their partner and seeing them die. Who wouldn’t want some comfort in that situation? Especially when their partner can’t give it.
And from the sound of it, they also didn’t read the back cover. And it says right there in the blurb what the story is about.
I worry about humanity.
July 1, 2018 at 2:39 pm
I’d worry more about humanity, except that there are people like you in the world, which gives me hope.
July 1, 2018 at 2:40 pm
Thanks, Pat. That means a lot to me…even if I’m not fully human. 😉😈
July 1, 2018 at 4:26 pm
The best of us aren’t fully human.
July 1, 2018 at 4:28 pm
July 1, 2018 at 2:44 pm
I just love how you described grief! It described me to a tee.
That was a great rebuttal. I think the person that wrote it seemed to be mad at someone. Unfortunately, she took it out on your book!
You write that new book Pat. There are a lot of us looking forward to it!
July 1, 2018 at 4:32 pm
I think you’re right about her being mad at someone, and my poor book got in the way. I hadn’t realized it, but I do have rather an unconventional style that must drive grammatists nuts.
July 1, 2018 at 4:05 pm
Well !! I don’t know where you got only *one star*. but on Amazon, you got some great reviews! They were all 4 & 5 stars, … and all were very thoughtfully written and almost everything was positive! Congratulations! Wherever you received only one star, ……. just remember that there are some people who find their power and try to feel better by being negative toward others. ….and perhaps it was someone who wanted hot romance, but had never experienced the death in an associated manner!
…..and perhaps it was just a troll. Or, perhaps someone received it as a gift, and it wasn’t their lifestyle, so not something they could appreciate. LOL Or, perhaps it was someone who just is just ‘being who they are”. Read the Amazon reviews instead! “Go where the sun shines,” as my granny would have told me!!
I’m glad you can be philosophical about a one-star review, …..and if it were me, I would probably respond to the author and tell them that you hope they will sometime try another of your books for a different viewpoint! I love it when I leave a review and the seller responds! It makes me feel like they care. …..which is probably just my imagination!!
July 1, 2018 at 4:26 pm
I’m very grateful it wasn’t on Amazon, though it is on a site that Amazon owns. One good thing — my publisher is going to fix the typos, so I went through the book again, and when those two typos are fixed, plus one hyphen added and a comma subtracted, the book will be as perfect as possible. Of course, that doesn’t include my own creative spellings (such as unobsess that I used in this blog), but those words are not typos . . . just my style.
As always, thank you for your encouragement. I need all I can get in the next few months until the book (or at least the book proposal) is done.
July 1, 2018 at 8:21 pm
Years ago, I posted a story on a writer’s site and it drew 4.5 and 5 stars consistently, until the day a woman left one star. The single, lonely star was bad enough without her comments: “I only gave you one star because I couldn’t give half a star. If you really want to learn to write, learn more about show, don’t tell, cut your passive sentences… ” and by then, I was so stoned that I have no idea what else it said. Two weeks later a site administrator saw it, quite by accident, and the admin. sent me a copy of the letter she sent to the rude woman. The site threatened to delete her account and banned her from reviewing anyone. Although I felt vindicated, the damage was done and I didn’t write again for a year. Still, that incident taught me a lot and I have never forgotten it. There is no excuse whatsoever for being so rude. If I can’t give at least three stars, I don’t write the review. Your writing is very good, Pat. It’s only natural for a lemon to mix into a truckload of sweet oranges once in a while. Acknowledge the source and dismiss it. Hugs.
July 1, 2018 at 9:39 pm
I felt kind of bad writing about that woman’s review, but it really did demoralize me, and I’d been feeling so good about working on this new book. I can’t afford to let myself be derailed! I did take the time, though, to go through the book again today using spellcheck and grammar check, and found an extra comma and a missing hyphen. Then, by chance, I found an extra word. (So there really could be a few typos in there still.) But I sent the corrections to my publisher, and so the matter is out of my hands. Now on to writing what I think will be an important book.
July 3, 2018 at 6:53 pm
My ambition is to become a best viewed blogger, I’ve made a good start got 5 or 6 now 🙂
July 3, 2018 at 7:37 pm
Well, so far you are closer to your goal than I am! I have yet to sell a single copy of my new book. Of course, it’s not written yet, but what does that have to do with anything?
July 3, 2018 at 9:44 pm
buggered if I know 😈