My mother and aunt stumbled upon a used bookshop that has a fun section called Blind Date with a Book. All the books were wrapped in white paper with a brief and catchy description of said book. This is all you have to go on when selecting your “date.”
The idea struck their fancy, so they purchased “a date.” My aunt’s turn out to be The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. It’s a great book but neither one of them had read it. My mother’s turned out to be Naked Once More by Elizabeth Peters. When my mother started reading it, she seemed a bit…“meh.”
In fact, she seemed pretty “meh” about the whole experience. However, she liked it enough to put it in my pile to take back with me when I visited for Christmas. Naturally, this response didn’t lead me to be super excited about it, but about a while ago I had finished The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper and needed a new book. I was feeling a bit indecisive, so I grabbed a few off the shelf and threw them on the couch and asked my husband to pick for me. He glanced through the titles and saw the word “naked” and immediately grinned and said, “I pick this one!” I laughed and agreed that it would be my next read.
So, on my way home from work the next day, I started Naked Once More, and I found it really interesting. I would not describe my feeling as “meh.” And I wondered if my mom’s lackluster reaction had lowered my expectations and thus it easily exceed them?
She didn’t tell me anything about the book prior to my reading other than the title and that is was alright. (Yeah, I know she really sold me.) My mother normally isn’t a shoulder shrugger when it comes to books. The reviews are normally glowing of greatness or raving of horribleness. Indifferent is an unusual state of being for her and probably in a way piqued my curiosity which is why I threw it on the couch at Scott when asking him to choose.
I feel like this book is a pretty good representation of how our expectations and knowledge prior really affect our view of the story. What’s funny is when I finished it, and I told my mother that I actually really enjoyed it she said, “Yeah, it was good wasn’t it?” I was immediately confused. I questioned, “You liked it?” Then she was confused, “Yeah of course I liked it.”
I wonder now if I had known her true feelings if my expectations would have been different and if I would have reacted to it differently. I don’t purposely find fault with the books I’m recommended, but I think they get held to a certain subconscious standard that for this book I didn’t have. I spent most of the book trying to figure out what my mother thought it lacked. Obviously, we had mis-communicated, but I think that lead to some interesting results and deduction. I admit I would be interested in potentially reading more “shoulder shruggers” to see how I feel about them.
How do your expectations affect the books you read?