This is a book I reviewed last year?! Has it only been a year? Well, I am reading more than the usual number of books these days. It’s … amazing.
Anyway, we’ll be talking about this book, which as I said, is an excellent read.
She is also giving away free copies of each edition of her book. Check out the details below.
And with that, I’ll let Willa take it from here.
Endings, endings, and beginning again—-
Putting a book into the world is an exhilarating and terrifying experience. Before publishing my first book, I believed my time at the Writers’ Workshop in Iowa had sufficiently toughened my skin against criticism— but not even the cutting words of my lauded teachers or peers whom I respected greatly seemed to chafe as much as the brutal words of strangers on Goodreads. And it was difficult to understand why I was so, so bothered! The book had received lovely reviews in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and others, and yet I couldn’t stop thinking about the most incendiary reviews on Goodreads or Amazon. It all felt very petty and embarrassing. At a point, I asked my husband to change my Goodreads password so I could no longer obsessively read every bad review. I desperately wanted to be one of these writers who was above the fray of all that noise— but it was harder for me to be that kind of writer than I thought it would be.
One thing I noticed about some of the more vitriolic reviews, (before I was locked out for my own good), was the intense disappointment people felt about the ending. I want this post to remain spoiler free, but suffice it to say that many readers felt robbed of something they believed the book owed them. This was evident in many of the reviews. And now, a year and a half from the original pub date, I’ve had time to reflect on some of the questions these reviews spurred for me. Was I bothered by them because I also was concerned that I had somehow failed to fulfill the unwritten contract between reader and writer? Was I as unsatisfied with the ending as they were? Why, most of all, did these particular criticisms feel so personal?
I’ve tried to think deeply about these issues recently because I am just now beginning some new projects. And I think our previous work, and our relationship to that work, often informs, for better or worse, the work that we will do. So I’ve tried to compare my original goals for the novel with the finished project. As it grew and changed, the novel became more and more about unknowability and about the way that Grief that has no “end”. How, given a narrative framework, does one go about ending such a story? I realize now that it was an impossible task. I had written myself not just into a corner, but a deep, dark cave in which I, and my narrator, eventually became lost. But that was the point! And in some sense, the readers who were most frustrated by the ending, I think, experienced the novel exactly as I had hoped. That huge feeling— the frustration, the fury, the fear of never knowing for certain one way or the other— that is just a slice of my narrator’s frayed psyche. And that is really what the book is all about— how do we live and continue to love one another after catastrophic loss?
Please read the book and feel free to review it on Goodreads, negatively or not! I can’t log on anymore!
GIVEAWAY: I am giving away a free copy of each of The Comfort of Monsters editions—one US and one UK. To enter please visit my website at www.willacrichards.com and send an inquiry through my “Contact Me” form with your name, address, and which edition you would like to receive. The first three inquiries will be the recipients.
Willa C. Richards is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she was a Truman Capote Fellow. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, LitHub, Electric Lit, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a PEN/Robert J. Dau Prize for Emerging Writers. The Comfort of Monsters is her first novel.