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Exhibits Y and Z

Filed under “Having kids changes everything,” I offer Exhibits  Y & Z. One would likely have never happened before Simon came along. The other certainly would not have.

Exhibit Y: One of my favorite mystery writers is, or more accurately was, Elizabeth George. She writes the Thomas Lynley series about a titled , handsome, Bentley driving Scotland Yard detective. Early mysteries delved into English class distinctions (Lynley’s partner was born on the opposite end of the class spectrum) and complicated matters of the heart while taking readers along on involved murder investigations.

Later entries have delved deeper into the sociological problems that foster violent crime. The stories are increasingly long and increasingly gritty. To my taste, this makes them increasingly hard to love, but I’ve stuck with them out of habit and allegiance to the key characters. With each successive let-down, I’ve wondered what it would take to have me put down a book and quit the series forever.

Now I know. Last April, George published This Body of Death. It’s over 600 pages, and its main story of a murdered woman found in a London cemetery is intersected with a re-imagination of a famous British murder. In 1993, James Bulger, then 2, was abducted from a shopping center and beaten and tortured to death. In case that’s not horrible enough, consider that the murderers were two ten-year-old boys. Yes, ten.

It was a story that rocked British society and challenged a court system that had never had to try or punish such young offenders. In the wake of this horrific crime, British society drew a collective gasp and wondered what it had wrought.

When I started the book, I didn’t realize that this crime would play a part in the story. Very shortly into it, with the details sounding familiar, I did a little research to confirm my suspicions. At about page 170 of the book, the fictionalized James Bulger has been abducted and thrown about. His clothes are getting tattered, he is getting increasingly hysterical, and I know more than I want to about what’s left to come. (I’m sparing you these details.) With about 550 pages to go, I put the book down and asked myself a few key questions. Namely:

  • How could George have used such a horrible story as part of her work? Especially when the victim’s parents are still around to read it and when her work claims to be wholly the product of her imagination? What’s the point of this publishing boilerplate if it’s a lie?
  • How could anyone read this and enjoy it? I know what James Bulger looked like: he looked like a sweet reddish-haired boy with big brown eyes and pink cheeks. It wasn’t long ago that Simon looked much the same. There’s no way I could get through a graphic retelling of this crime without feeling sick or having nightmares. I can’t imagine I’m alone in that.

Having considered these questions, I made a decision to skip ahead to the last 75 pages, confirm my suspicion as to how the two stories were connected, and delete the rest from my e-Reader. I’m done—with this story and this author.

Exhibit Z is more cheerful. It begins with Matt getting a nice bonus this year. It would be handy any year, but is especially welcome now that I’m not bringing in an income. What to do with it?

  • Redo our ancient bathroom?
  • Finish our deck?
  • Make the dining room window into French doors leading out to our deck?
  • Knock down the wall in our living room and restore the original staircase?

So many options! Here’s what we settled on:

It seems a bit much for one kid, but it will make it much easier to sneak in play time when we don’t have time to hit a park, to say nothing of how much easier it will be to get yard-work done. And Simon already tried out the climbing wall on the store’s demo. As for the rest of the bonus, that’s going to repair our fence and make it easier to keep Simon in the backyard to enjoy his new play-set.

All hail suburban parenthood! We’ll have time for a decent bathroom and elegant deck when Simon is off in college.

2 Responses to “Exhibits Y and Z”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    I am speeding my way through the last couple of hundred pages of this book, skipping lots of awful details, and like you I am very sure that this will be my last E. G. I really don’t understand what happened to her??? I used to look forward to her next novel.

  2. Amanda says:

    Hey, I took my teaching money and fenced in the backyard for Lily, when the house really needed insulation and new windows. But she loves running free in the backyard so much it’s worth being cold in the winter.

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