That happened to me with Keturah and Lord Death, but I'll hold off telling you if it was a love/hate or hate/love scenario until after I've briefed you on the plot.
Despite living in the poorest village in the kingdom, Keturah and her grandmother are happy. Keturah hopes to one day find her "one true love," but she isn't in a hurry. One day, she follows the great white hart into the forest and becomes lost for three days. Her life is slipping away when Lord Death appears to escort her the rest of the way. Keturah is desperate to hold onto her life and so bargains with Lord Death with the only thing she can think of: a story. She weaves a tale of loss and love and then cuts it off abruptly, promising to tell the rest at the end of the next day. Lord Death agrees and even promises to spare her life completely if she can find her "one true love" before her time is up.
Keturah returns to the village with a determination to do two things: find someone to fall in love with and warn Lord Temsland about the impending plague that will surely ravage their village if they don't do something. But both tasks prove more difficult than anticipated, so Keturah keeps holding off Lord Death, but with a price.
I have so many friends who adore this book. In fact, I think I first heard about it from Julianne Donaldson (author of Edenbrooke) who listed it as one of her very favorite books. I value and respect the opinions of these friends. I've loved some of their other recommendations in the past. I share many of the same favorite books as them.
And so I can't figure out how my experience with this book could be so vastly opposite of theirs.
Because, if you must know, I didn't really like this book. In fact, even though it's only 200 pages long, it felt like it dragged on and on forever. However, instead of just saying, "Hmmm, I guess that one wasn't really for me" and moving on, I feel compelled to somehow hash out my experience and figure out what went wrong. Here are a few guesses:
- Listening to this book was a huge mistake. In fact, I might even go so far as to blame my whole negative reaction on the fact that I listened to it instead of read it. I checked it out from the library through their One-Click Digital program, which doesn't let you speed up the tracks. I've become pretty accustomed to listening to things at double speed, but since it was such a short book, I didn't think it would really matter. Oh, but it did. Every sentence felt stretched out to the point of distortion until I thought I was going to scream at the narrator.
- The phrase "one true love" (which I normally only associate with Disney movies anyway) was so overused, I thought I was going to gag. (Again though, the way the narrator elongated "onnnne truuuue lovvve" certainly couldn't have helped.)
- Keturah was about as dimwitted a heroine as they come. She spends all of her bargained time perfecting her pie-making skills in hopes that she will win Ben Marshall's hand in marriage, but she freely admits that she doesn't even like Ben. Her friends, Beatrice and Gretta, are not much better. It's one thing for a reader to be privy to some important information and watch in great suspense for the characters to figure something out. It's another to want to reach through the pages and throttle them because they are so imperceptive.
- The ending was so unsatisfying . . . and not for the reason all of you who have read it are probably thinking. It didn't surprise or disappoint me. I expected it and saw it coming from the beginning. But I wanted to want it. And I thought that I would want it by the end. But I didn't. And a love story that doesn't make your heart flutter even once feels like a failure.
"If untimely death came only to those who deserved that fate, Keturah, where would choice be? No one would do good for its own sake but only to avoid an early demise."
"She knew it was Death who sweetened the apples."
"His voice is cold at first . . . It seems unfeeling. But if you listen without fear, you find that when he speaks, the most ordinary words become poetry. When he stands close to you, your life becomes a song, a praise. When he touches you, your smallest talents become gold. The most ordinary loves break your heart with their beauty."
"Tell me what it is like to die."I have a feeling that if I read it again (and actually read it this time), I might have a different overall opinion, but I'm not willing to risk such torture again in order to find out.
"You experience something similar every day," he said softly. "It is as familiar to you as bread and butter."
"Yes," I said. "It is like every night when I fall asleep."
"No, it is like every morning when you wake up."
Come on, friends who love this book: Tell me why you liked it! Defend Keturah and her "one true love." Show me what I was missing. And, in contrast, is there anyone who can commiserate with me? I know the majority of readers love this book, but surely there must be someone out there who was as disenchanted with this book as I was.