Our children are always interested in what we are reading on the list. Back in the early days my husband and I were happy to regale them with both major plot points and entertaining details from the selections. Over the past few novels this has gotten increasingly more difficult.
Their questions about The Stranger were no exception. I dodged the, “What’s it about?” with a simple, “It’s not my favorite.” In our house that sentence translates to, “Yuck, gross, this is awful, blech.” It’s a statement that sometimes hovers around mealtime. And the boys saw right through my discourse.
“Why don’t you like it, Mom?”
Still filibustering, I answered that it wasn’t exactly the novel that I disliked, so much as the main character who was telling the story. I didn’t think he was a very nice guy.
I should have known that this would lead to an inquiry about what made him “not a nice guy.” My mind raced. Do I tell them that he didn’t even know exactly when his mother died? Do I mention his distraction at her funeral? Should I tell them about his hook-up with a girl right after he got back into town?
That was all wildly inappropriate, but I had to say something.
“He doesn’t care that his neighbor is mean to a dog.”
The shock and horror in their reactions makes me think that none of them will be willing to pick up Camus for a long, long while. I just wish I’d had the same warning.