Monday, November 9, 2009

Sisters of the Heart

It was more than a ladies night out; it was an overnight retreat complete with goodies, no kids, and an almost all-night gab fest. Last Friday and Saturday the women in my ward visited a huge lodge near Park City for this annual event. Now if this sounds like something more appropriate for a bunch of teenage girls, let me assure you it felt a bit like harking back to those teenage years, but the women in my ward decided some years back that there was a need to revisit the overnighters of their youth. They even invited the seventeen-year-olds to join them. It has proved to be a great way to ease the younger women into Relief Society, give kids and daddies (or grandparents) some bonding time, and generally enhance the close sisterhood among themselves.
It's the sisterhood among women I wish to speak about. Our guest speaker Saturday morning was Cheri Crane, author of The Fine Print and the Kate series. She spoke of "sisters of the heart." Those are the strong, enduring relationships between women who support and strengthen each other and never tear down, injure, or make each other look foolish. This is the kind of relationship we all have need of in our lives.
There's an uncomfortable amount of darkness and gloom in this world both in real life and in fiction. (This topic is being discussed on Six LDS Writers and a Frog) Is it our uneasy and often corrupt political environment, wars, drugs, pornography, abdication of parental responsibility, a lessening of morals or a combination of unpleasant factors that is creating this lack of optimism and light in the world and in modern literature? And is literature less real if it lightens the heart and brings hope?
It is my personal belief that the absence of hope is the definition of Satin's realm. I also think that along with strong families, there has never been a time when the bonds of sisterhood are more needed. Raising strong, faithful families is not easy in today's dark and negative environment. But with a sister of the heart, a strong, positive friend, the burden is lightened. I think, too, that friendships between women are another area where women can set strong examples for their children, demonstrating that love and service to each other, are stronger criteria for friendship than the superficial values such as popularity which are often mistaken for friendship.
By the standards of many, LDS fiction is often considered unrealistic because of happy endings, uplifting scenes, and its general air of hope. I believe hopelessness and despair are the devil's tools, therefore, I like stories that end with hope and optimism. I don't mean the sappy, silly 'they lived happily ever after' fairytale ending, but the ones where the characters have discovered their inner strength, have grown and stretched, and are stronger and more ready to tackle whatever future obstacles they may encounter.
Is my belief in "sisters of the heart" a reality or one of those naive believes critics throw at LDS fiction? Is hope as great a reality as despair? Is fiction less real if the characters meet loss, grief, betrayal, or injustice by growing stronger rather than revengeful? I guess I'm asking what makes fiction real for you?


Haiku Amy said...

Hi Jennie, I just posted my review for Shudder. Thanks again for sending me a copy. Review of Shudder on Haiku Amy

I don't think it is unrealistic to have a happy book ending. That to me is hope in itself. The reason why is because it shows that there can be a happy ending for all people. Really it is not an ending anyway. Perhaps the book ends, but a story is just a glimpse of a portion of a characters life. It is the same with our lives. There are many chapters to our lives.

Books that are realistic to me have just what you mentioned: conflict, growth and learning with the characters.

Terresa said...

No, not at all. Growing stronger instead of revengeful is a very good thing. And happens in real life all the time.

I love fiction when the characters suck me into their world. When they make tough choices, go through trials, and somehow emerge on the other side, wiser and somehow more seasoned.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Jennie, I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the fun R.S. retreat sponsored by your ward. It was great to see you again! =D

As for books--I love happy endings. I also enjoy books that show how the characters grow and change for the better. Conflict is a big part of life, and I expect to see that aspect portrayed in novels. But I also think it's important to leave the reader with a positive feeling at the conclusion of the story.

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