In October of 2001, I was laid off from my job in the telecom industry after the events of 9/11. I found myself newly married, living in a small condo with a lot of time and very little money. One of four strengths that had landed me that job to begin with was my resourcefulness, so I put that characteristic to good use and discovered free entertainment from the library. On a blustery autumn day, I climbed the stairs to the second floor of the Bear Valley Branch library, the same concrete building I frequented as a child, to discover by surprise an entire section of videos. Somehow, it seemed unorthodox that a library promoting the enrichment and advancement of your brain would be making multimedia available. And yet, there were movies and television series, documentaries and music videos, exercise tapes and natural birthing classes all to be viewed at your leisure. I opted not to watch the latter and instead rented a lot of CSI: Las Vegas episodes on VHS tapes [Can you believe that just over a decade ago I was binging on entire television series using a VCR? As a side note, I also remember that year being the last time I made a mix tape].
After I watched several seasons and could no longer tolerate the violence of that program that eventually showed up in my dreams, I moved on to reading books. However, the violence was simply displaced from my head to my heart, as rage coursed through me when I finished the first book of a trilogy and the second was unavailable for checkout.
The first time this happened, I had just finished A Voice in the Wind, the beginning of Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series. After having been enraptured for days by historical fiction transporting me back to the Roman Colosseum, the 520-page tome ended with a cliffhanger I just couldn’t bear. I wore down the carpet in my hallway pacing back and forth as I called nearly every used bookstore nearby begging and pleading for them to have the second book. I remember being on my cordless phone, wondering if the battery was going to die after dialing store after store only to come up short.
While I can’t remember exactly how I commandeered the second book, I do remember feeling immense relief snuggled comfortably in my bed with several pillows propped behind my head and my down comforter pulled up to my chin while I greedily cracked the spine of An Echo in the Darkness. Like a baby soothed by the breast, I finally felt exquisite relief.
Over the past decade, I have experienced a similar torture after finishing The Hunger Games, Tiger’s Curse, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and fully expect Divergent to be the next. It feels like cruelty to be left with the traumatic events of only part of a story without having full knowledge of how it will ultimately end. And yet, I think the authorial intent is for you to experience that agonizing pain so acutely that only the hope of relief drives you to keep reading until the very end.
Today is Good Friday. There is seemingly nothing “good” about a day commemorating the judgment, betrayal, loss, abandonment, torture and death of our beloved savior. English is actually the only language that uses the word “good.” The term “holy” is used in the romantic languages; German uses the word for “sorrowful” or “suffering.” In Denmark, today is known as “Long Friday.” It seems to be unclear how this day got translated into English as “Good” Friday.
However, today ends the first book of an epic trilogy. I think about the narrative of this day 2,000 years ago and it is a cliffhanger I can hardly tolerate. I squirm in sitting with the drama of Jesus taking on punishment by the will of his Father. My stomach is pitted by the passion of the cross. Even as I type these words, there is a lump in my throat. I want the agony to end. And yet, I must live with this day. I must feel this exquisite anguish in order that the hope of relief will drive me to endure the rest of this Good Friday as well as Holy Saturday all while anticipating the resurrection on Sunday. Thankfully, I know how this trilogy ends. But still, I am forced to remain in this day. To be stuck with the ending of this book, painfully unable to acquire the next. It certainly doesn’t feel “good.” But would I even consider reading a trilogy that did anything less?