I love to write happy endings. Yet, my stories deal with real life issues and emotions so, in their telling, I cannot avoid unpleasantness. Seems life doles out lots of hassle along the way. It is indiscriminate and rampant and causes darkness to fall upon…whomever. Whenever. The Bible says that even God Himself is “no respecter of persons.” And I remember a time, after the death of my adolescent child, when an uninvited visitor came to call.
His name was Grief. And he was, at first, so in my face I would smother and despair and cry forlornly. I could be walking in clean fragrant spring air, soaking up peace when he would suddenly appear and block out the sunshine, overwhelm my space, and take from me the tranquility I had painstakingly gleaned through prayer and meditation. He would take the mellow music that soothed and make it tinny and dissonant to my ear. He would cause everything, even pleasant, entreating voices to rattle my nerves.
He was, at times, obnoxiously intrusive.
Grief’s flavor is a mixed bouquet of carnations and bitter weeds. The sweet carnation flavor is like a siren’s song, enticing one to linger in thick, drowning melancholy, while the bitter taste reminds one to quickly seek escape.
I learned that enduring Grief was necessary. In small, brief doses, he helps us heal as we struggle through darkness.
So, at times, I will grieve for what might have been, for what no longer is. But Grief will not be allowed to move in and take up residence. He would devour me.
I cannot permit that. Life is too good.
In Flavors, Sadie Ann Melton, too, faces moments of grief, for what life is not. At others, she grieves for what life is. Her twelve years have not prepared her for the reality she faces during that 1950 summer at the Melton Farm. She sees death up close and personal. She encounters cruelty and inhumanity. Gentle-hearted Sadie Ann uses flavors to label the different experiences and epiphanies. It renders them bearable and coats them for easier swallowing. This way, she can cope and move forward.
Still, Grief shows up and despairs over the hidden funny paper and cries over the dead puppies. He is really in Sadie Ann’s freckled face and under her skin, grating her nerves. He makes her feel useless and isolated. Homeless.
But, like me, Sadie Ann refuses to keep company with this intrusive, uninvited visitor. He is tolerated only for short increments of time. She even shares with him, on occasion, an introspective moment or two. But she is too “in the moment” to linger and smolder in self-pity for unfortunate happenings. Somehow, inherently, her spirit knows that life is too short to waste.
So Sadie Ann cries at times and she doesn’t cry at others. She laughs a lot but soon learns when not to laugh. She loves to exult over and talk about things she enjoys but she learns also when to keep silent. Like the child in all of us, she learns many things through difficult experiences. Like us, she learns that when Grief appears, sometimes he just comes along for the ride. He isn’t the driver. It’s our call.
Grief teaches Sadie Ann to love others unconditionally. It stretches her to new dimensions of awareness and compassion. It draws her to adult peers who love and guide her into adulthood.
My goal is to write stories that impact all readers, universally. That once, having read my stories, they will feel unalterably changed, in good ways.
In my mainstream fiction novels, I don’t garnish my stories with pretty paper and ribbons. I strive for reality. I want readers to span the darkness with my characters, weep with them and struggle with them as they grope their way to light. Remember what one little candle can do in a dark world. I use this same Darkness/Light contrast in my novel, Song of Renewal, to symbolize the three Wakefields’ struggles toward enlightenment and renewal.
Once the reader enters into these characters’ world, only then can they truly appreciate the fact that, when they emerge from that dark odyssey into light, the glow will be glorious to behold!
Aah. Life is sweet.
~~ Emily Sue Harvey
Emily Sue has published 6 books, including Cocoon and Unto These Hills. She is a life member of SWA and a former president. Visit Emily Sue's website.