When Rick Mercer says you’re funny, you believe it. And since much of the feedback about Fruit (including Rick’s) was that it was so humourous, I figured my second book would have to be funny, as well. Trouble was, there was very little about the story of Joyce Sparks that inspired laughs. The novel, after all, is about a woman mourning the death of her son.
So while it may have its share of funny moments, Natural Order is a really sad book. I resisted the story for a long time because I thought readers wouldn’t like it. I was afraid it might depress people – and all of us have read our share of depressing books over the years. But it was more than just the sadness of the story that held me back. It was also the mournfulness. I wasn’t sure I had it in me, especially since I could draw on no life experiences of my own that came anywhere near the devastation of losing a child. But, much to my surprise, the mournfulness was there. Or, at the very least, enough of it for me to begin sinking into the development of Joyce’s character.
I think many of us are afraid of sadness, the real, deep-in-the-pits-of-your-soul brand of sadness, so we try to circumvent it by faking sadness. In other words, we sometimes feel sad over imagined things as a way of protecting ourselves against real sadness. Most of my sadness comes from my imaginary world, rather than my real one. (My real one, truth be told, is a relatively happy place.) But beyond that, I think we all share a collective sadness. And while we may not experience the specifics of another person’s sadness, we’re somehow able to tap into it, to sense it. To empathize.
Sadness, like most emotions, has many layers, shades and dimensions. I’d stop short of calling sadness beautiful because often the things that cause our sadness aren’t beautiful in the least. But there can be something gratifying in surrendering to it. Not unlike a much-needed laugh.
I’m just glad I finally gave in.