dog water swimming branch

My preferred type of novel both creates something stylistically new with language and enlightens my worldview by revealing a new perspective. But I recently read and loved a book that doesn’t really do either of those things. It’s almost purely plot and emotion.

Sadness! Fear! Love! Hope! Guilt! Trauma! Contentment! It’s all there in the internationally bestselling 2016 German novel The End of Loneliness, by Benedict Wells, translated by Charlotte Collins.

No sentence in this book stands out as particularly beautiful (or ugly). Few of the book’s ideas stand out as particularly profound, other than the usual (simultaneously trite and deeply important) ones of the power of love and family, the passage of time and how it creates nostalgia, and so on. The plot races through the days and years without the reader once noticing that they are reading a book, not actually living a life.

For example, take the following passage from the early pages of the book:

“. . . I heard a yelp. A section of the bank had broken away, and the dog had fallen in the water. It was only clinging on by its front paws and teeth, which were still sunk into the branch. It whimpered, and tried to struggle back up the crumbling riverbank, but the current was too strong. Its whimpering grew louder.”

Poor doggie!!

I say this in all seriousness, with no sarcasm whatsoever, for the words have swept me away.

The End of Loneliness puts me in remembrance of some of the glorious novels that I read in my tweens or early teens:

To be so carried away by Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera that, finishing it, my cheeks drenched in tears, I could hardly stand to be alive, my sorrow for the phantom was so great.

To be so carried away by the opening of Chaim Potok’s 1967 novel The Chosen that suddenly baseball, a sport I had until then cared nothing about, became fascinating and very, very important.

Some 15 or 20 years ago, I was on a road trip and suggested listening to the album “Heart and Soul: New Songs from Ally McBeal” by Vonda Shepard. My traveling companion replied: Well, that’s a great album, but I’m not in the mood to get all emotional right now.

Fair enough. If you’re not in the mood to get all emotional, don’t read The End of Loneliness. But if you are? It’s just the thing.

What have you gotten emotional about lately?