I didn’t want to read it.
The premise seemed so horrible to me that I couldn’t imagine how I’d get through the book. But my daughter insisted. She loved the trilogy so much that she wanted to read each book aloud to me, and how could I refuse?
I want to say I can’t find the words to explain how incredible this experience has been, but of course I can. You know me better than that.
First, and perhaps the best part of these books, was the silky passionate voice of my 11-year-old daughter Eliana, in the back and front seats of my car, reading with gusto the happenings involving Katniss Everdeen and the awful world of Panem she seeks to transform.
But then, there was the rapt attention of all of us – my boys as well as my husband and step-daughter on the many-hours drive to and from the beach and northern Michigan, where the car silently sped along paved highways, the only background soundtrack the consistent cadence of Eliana’s beautiful voice sharing with us the trajectory of these suspenseful stories.
Those were the best details of these books for me.
But then the books. Ah, the books.
I mean, really, the idea that a writer could create an alternate world so heavy with meaning!
I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, but in a nutshell, this is a post-apocalyptic world where North America is divided into districts that all produce things for the Capitol. The country is run by a power-hungry president who has no respect for human life, and people are constantly in jeopardy for acting out of step with the party line.
At the forefront of this country is the annual Hunger Games, an awful creation where two children from each of 12 districts are chosen to fight each other to the death with only one victor emerging from a horrific arena of death-inducing frights and challenges.
That’s why I didn’t think I’d want to read it. I cannot tolerate horrors directed at anyone, let alone children. But Eliana persisted. She insisted that the books were so good, so riveting, so intriguing to her, that she really wanted to share them with me.
And I’m glad I said yes. It got to the point where I could not wait for our next excerpt, my mind trained on what happens next, what the outcomes were.
I must admit, I insisted Eliana tell me some of the outcomes so I would know that everything would end well. She did. I don’t care about spoiler alerts, really. I need the reassurance that life is inherently good.
And so last night, having finished book 3 yesterday, we talked about what these books really represent.
I did some research about the author, Suzanne Collins, who said she was inspired by a flipping of TV channels between reality TV and the horrors of ongoing wars involving children, and the two started to blend.
Really, we live in a time where many people are riveted by the real life horrors presented in reality TV and the up-to-the-minute visual horrors of war in real time. Never before have people been exposed to so much reality – and I do not believe it’s good for us.
It decimates the inherent compassion our souls thrive on, replacing it with a keen sense of it’s-not-me fascination with other people’s unrest.
But more than that, these books represent the tenacity of free-thinking, the idea that even the worst situation could be overcome by a desire to enforce goodness, and the sense that true love and friendship are the keys to perseverance and survival.
And, there is the ever-present notion that the world needs good leadership – and in the absence of good leadership, people will endure really bad leadership, even to their own end.
With those lessons, I can’t imagine not reading such books.
What a gift my daughter gave to me this summer. What a supreme gift.