Saturday, January 12, 2008

Re-thinking the Warning Label

I know I've been bitching about labels lately. But maybe there are some things that should be labeled but aren't. Like books. Books should have warnings on them, perhaps, the way that movies, video games, and CDs do, so that if they contain anything graphic or disturbing the reader has fair warning.

For example. I picked up this book, A Tale of Two Sisters, at the on-campus bookstore*. It looked like basic chic-lit: funny, not too deep, a good way to pass a lunch break or two. This is the blurb from the back cover:

"Cassie is slender, clever, charismatic, successful. The one flaw in her perfect life may be her marriage. Her sister Lizbet is plumper, plainer, dreamier. An aspiring journalist, she's stuck writing embarrassing articles on sex for Ladz Mag. Her one
achievement is her relationship with Tim, who thinks she's amusing and smart. Despite Cassie being the favored child, she and Lizbet have always been best friends. But then Lizbet gets pregnant.

Forced apart by mistakes not their own, enticed by new loves, and confronted by challenges they never asked for, Cassie and Lizbet struggle to rediscover the simple goodness of their sisterhood, even as their lives take them on a collision course of heartache and new beginnings. "

Now doesn't that sound nice and harmless? British! Sisters! Pregnancy! All good fun. Until (spoiler alert here) this:

"'With love, Dad', said the note, in handwriting that wasn't his. I touched my fingers to the dark velvet petals and breathed in their heavy scent. It was fitting that he sent me red roses--the color of sex and death, the color of the blood that gushed from me when I miscarried my baby girl three days earlier."

It sort of hits you in the solar plexus to read something like that, if you've seen that blood yourself, if you've read just far enough along to be invested in the characters. This character was past 16 weeks along--four months-- that's just not supposed to happen, in life or in fiction. The book should contain warning label: Contains late miscarriage and grief, not suitable for the emotionally vulnerable, the recently miscarried, or the squishy-hearted.

* And I really, really need to stop buying random books there on my lunch breaks or time away from work. I have a Barnes & Noble card-- at least 10% off any book! Usually more! I have a library card. I have a bookshelf full of impulsively-bought chick lit and mysteries that I will never read again and need to be rid of.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Wanna send them to me? :)

Wow...that is terrible and I do agree there needs to be some sort of hint that the fluffy book you picked up to while away an hour will trigger painful emotions.

I found your blog through celeste's and thought I'd peruse and found out hey! You're in Virginia too! Please stop by my blog sometime...

(Sorry, I'm a huge Cowboys fan, but I was raised in Oklahoma. Does that count as legitimate?) :D