In everyone’s lives come those moments when they feel cheated. It’s an awful feeling, accompanied by a sense of helplessness and even some anger. Most of us got our first taste of this emotion as small children on the playground or at the hands of older siblings. Sometimes we feel cheated over small things and most of us quickly put the experience behind us with a word of self-warning to be more watchful and less gullible in the future. Sometimes we experience major betrayals and getting over them and even forgiving become difficult and seemingly impossible.
I haven’t faced the kind of heart-breaking betrayal some have, yet several incidents in my life which I suspect are much like those experiences others have faced, have left me quick to anger over injustices, misuse of power, and cheaters in general.
I fumed as a child when a sister cheated at board games, a brother cheated at cards, or when one of our family dogs, one with a definite attitude, would stand over the dog dish refusing the other dog or the cats even a taste of supper. But the incident that has stayed with me over the years was arriving as a fifth grader at a new school in the spring to find plans under way for a big marble tournament. I was good at playing marbles. With three competitive older brothers, I’d learned every tactic and nuance of the game. All of the students were advised to spend recesses practicing. By the day of the tournament I’d won every marble every fifth and sixth grade boy at the school owned. I was forced to return all of the marbles and banned from the tournament because I WAS A GIRL.
As a Junior in high school, I was called into the principal’s office and told by him that though an official announcement wouldn’t be made until a future assembly, he wanted me to know that I had been chosen for a particular highly coveted honor. I was thrilled and excited. The assembly came and another name was announced. Needless to say, I was stunned and hurt. Later I went to the principal and asked for an explanation. He said the chairman of the committee had found out that my family was moving at the end of the school year and it had been decided the honor should go to the runner up since she would be at that school the following year and I wouldn’t. There was no explanation for why I hadn’t been told before the assembly.
In the years since I’ve felt cheated over far more serious issues such as a car purchase, being passed over for promotions at work, working hard for a good political candidate and seeing him or her lose to a less qualified candidate because of carefully timed insults or lies. Over the years I’ve learned to take a more philosophical approach to finding myself the butt of some cheater’s manipulations. And I’ve certainly become less gullible, but a twinge of that old hurt and disappointment struck me yesterday. Not solely because I felt cheated, but because a gifted writer cheated him/herself.
I’m not going to mention the book or the author. Suffice it to say this book began and maintained through ninety percent of the book a rare gift for creating a story that is truly exceptional and real—a story that needs to be told. As a reviewer I am constantly reading and evaluating many, many books. I’m not easily impressed, but this book did impress me. Then near the end came a chapter with a scrambled point of view, perhaps even an omniscient intrusion of the author as a god who sees all. I winced. Then came the conclusion and I felt cheated. Suddenly this powerful book became another Dallas episode, another happy-ending-at-all-costs second rate formula romance, and an incredible story became just another novel. Some readers may consider the ending another ironic twist, but I think more will feel, like me, just plain cheated.
Those who comment on this post will be added to those who commented on my contest blog (see below). Yes, that means some of you will have your name in the hat twice. The winner will receive a signed copy of my new book High Country. It will be mailed free anywhere in the US. If anyone outside the continental US wins, I'm sorry to say, they'll have to pay the postage.