There is a television commercial from the mid-80s for Folgers Coffee that still runs (now in an updated form) around the holidays. The scene opens in the morning, with a college-aged guy entering a quiet home. The youngest family member wakes up, and after a happy hug, the two of them head to the kitchen to brew coffee. Steam lifts through the sun rays that pour through the window. Mom and Dad and older sis smell the coffee and come downstairs…only to be overwhelmed by emotion when they see… “Peter!!”
It gets me every time. Every. Single. Time. I get all verklempt and the tears come, because Peter is home for Christmas, and they just weren’t expecting him. But after 20 years, shouldn’t I be expecting him? Why does this TV commercial still make me cry?
It’s because I want it to. I am a sucker when it comes to being entertained. Give me a good sob story, and I’m hooked. Even when I know I’m going to be a mess, I read or watch on. The dialogue in my head goes something like: “this is going to be really, really sad. I should turn this off. I should stop reading this. I’m going to be so sad! I’m going to cry. Really, I need to put this book down!” But I persist.
Some authors are particularly good at reeling me in (my first sob-out-loud read was THE BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Paterson). I’ll never forget how heartbroken I felt. What power storytellers have!
One of my recent favorite authors in the “I am going to make you do the ugly cry” category is John Green. I know I am a bit late to the “I love John Green” party, but maybe you are too. He is a talented author of young adult fiction. I decided to read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS after seeing it on numerous award lists.
Well, from the first scene, you know you are going to be sad. I mean, the book starts at a support group for kids with cancer. It’s not like the author is trying to be sneaky; you know where this is going, right? But you read on. Knowing it will be painful and tear-filled, he reels you in with his delightful way with words and characters you want invite over for dinner.
Many writers say it’s hard to know how to react when people say things like, “I loved your book! It made me bawl my eyes out.” Ummm…sorry? The truth is, those writers should feel free to say thanks, because deep down we want them to break out hearts.
Whether I know what’s coming or it’s a complete surprise, get me crying and I’ll love you for it.
And because I know you too, dear reader, will fall for it, click here to have Peter come into your home: