Life on Hold–or Kidnapped by Books

When I read a book, something scary happens!  I get KIDNAPPED.

It’s not scary for me.  I have the time of my life, I can assure you.  But for my family who sees my body sitting on the couch reading a book, but cannot reach me no matter how hard they try…because I’ve been kidnapped into another dimension…it’s a little scary.

This doesn’t happen with every book I read…just the REALLY, REALLY good ones.  Mediocre books don’t suck me in and I’m able to hear what’s going on around me and answer questions and stop for a moment to empty the dryer when it rings, and pay attention to the clock so I know when to fix meals.

But if I get hold of a REALLY, REALLY good book…my home and family suffers.  The book literally kidnaps my mind…and my life is put on hold until I am ransomed.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been kidnapped by a book before, but if you ever do, the only way to ransom yourself, is to finish the book—clear to the bitter end!  Your life as you know it comes to an end–it is abruptly put on hold and nothing’s getting done while you sit on the couch in your disembodied state.

“Mom!  Mom?  Mom!  Mom?  Mom!  Mom?  Mom!”

I just stare at my book transfixed—because I’m not there.  Laundry piles up; dinners become fend for yourself nights where chaos reigns in the kitchen because mom’s sitting on the couch—her mind somewhere in outer space.

I’ve been kidnapped enough in my life by great books that my family is starting to recognize the signs and deal with the crisis when it happens.  They know there’s nothing they can do.  IT’S ALL UP TO ME TO FREE MYSELF!  How fast can I finish that book and break the bonds of captivity?  I’m a pretty fast reader…but some books have lots of pages…and maybe even sequels.  My family freaks out then!

When I’m sucked into these other world realities and leave my body behind on the couch, it’s a serious mind game.  And that kidnapper theory—the Helsinki syndrome, where you start identifying with your captor—is all true!  I identify completely with my captor.

Once when I read Tess of the D’ubervilles by Thomas Hardy, I couldn’t sleep for two whole nights because my mind couldn’t stop thinking of all the scenarios that could happen in the story.  Would Tess do this?  Or that?  And what if she did that?  No!  She can’t do that!  That would break my heart.  No!  She’ll do this. Ahh!  Yes.  That would be a good ending.  But what if she doesn’t?  WAH!

For hours I laid in bed and thought these things…and I was angry at myself for not going to sleep…but my mind was kidnapped and helpless.  I was at the book’s mercy.

That book is extremely long and hard to plow through, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it.  I read like crazy the next day trying to ransom myself so that I would be able to sleep that night.  But alas, even though I read 300 pages, it wasn’t enough.  I went to bed a second night still not close enough to wrapping up the plot in my mind and ransoming myself from Tess’s world.

She better not do that!  Oh, I’ll be so mad if Hardy doesn’t make Angel come back to her!  Ugh!  Stupid man.  What will Tess do?   Surely she won’t go back to Alec.  He is vile!  She’s been so good all this time!  Angel will come back and bliss, bliss, bliss.  I like stories to end happy.  Surely things will work out for those, like Tess, who are good and noble and true, but just a little down on themselves for no good reason.  Surely!  Mr. Hardy…are you listening to me?  You better dang do well with Tess!

My brain couldn’t shut off, even though my body was exhausted from a second night of no sleep.  All night long I went through the possibilities that could occur in the story.   I had long conversations with a long dead Thomas Hardy about what he was thinking when he wrote this.  Surely he wouldn’t make Tess forsake Angel and lower herself to Alec!  Bleck!  She’s married!  That would be untrue to her character.  Do you hear me, Mr. Hardy?  You aren’t worth two shillings as an author if you hurt Tess!

Morning finally came and I skipped breakfast to get back into my world that was on hold all night.  I followed Tess through her trials and cried with her and loved her oh, so much!  And I was determined that I would ransom myself that third day, for I needed my sleep and couldn’t take another tossing night of troubled thinking about that dang book.  So I poured myself into those last hundred pages, consumed in Tess’s world.  I loved her; I connected with her–even though she was one of my captors.  In reality…I was her, battling a world that was determined to destroy me.  I would beat it!  Tess would triumph!

BOOO!  HISSS!  Bad Mr. Hardy!  Tess didn’t triumph, but I did sleep that night after I finished the book.  Sigh!  Hardy released me from his shackling chains, and I left hating him for what he had done to me and Tess.

But I’m free now, even though Tess isn’t.  I don’t belong to that world anymore.  I belong back to the world of listening to my family and responding to the lovely chime on my cool washer and dryer and caring about what I let my family ingest at mealtimes.   At least until the next REALLY, REALLY good book claims me.

And because I’m a sucker for punishment and like to willingly give myself up to more kidnapping trauma, please, please, please leave a comment and tell me your favorite book(s) you’ve read.  I’m always looking for more ideas.  Thanks!


5 thoughts on “Life on Hold–or Kidnapped by Books

  1. Not much joy to be found with Thomas Hardy. That being said, I think he is my favorite author. Return of the Native is my favorite; Jude The Obscure the most depressing (but still a great novel). If you’re not suffering from depression after reading these, I can also highly recommend The Mayor of Casterbridge.

    • Thanks Connie. I’ve got the 1st two on my list to read…but hadn’t heard of Mayor of Casterbridge. And I agree…Thomas Hardy is a great author. You can hate an author for what he does to his characters and still love him.

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