I’m still on the subject of unbelievable characters. Several years ago the husband of a friend of mine, who knew I was a writer, gave me the novel he had written and asked my opinion.
“Be truthful,” he added. “I can take it.”
The author had a career in the trucking business and wrote a novel about a trucker who regularly drove between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Through no fault of his own, the driver’s vehicle had been poorly maintained, and was involved in an accident. A serious accident, that caused a pile-up on the Interstate and resulted in the death of the governor of California whose limo was heading for Sacramento. Great idea for a story, right?
I wanted to say nice things about the book, but a particular character--a very important one--wasn’t believable. See if you agree with me.
The trucker is married with two teen-aged children. The boy is belligerent and the 16-year-old girl is pregnant. Their mother is an alcoholic, whom the trucker won’t divorce because he’s Catholic. A year or so before the horrendous accident, on one of his many trips to San Francisco, he meets a woman and they begin an affair, which eventually ends in her pregnancy. She dies in childbirth and the trucker decides to turn over the newborn baby to his wife to raise. And she agrees.
Whoops. I think we have two unbelievable characters, not one.
I told the author (but nicely) his trucker was insane, or seriously stupid, if he thought an alcoholic could raise that child. After all, she hadn’t done so well with the other two. And even if she went to AA to clean up her act, the first time the baby became ill and screamed all night, she’d be back to the bottle before he could say, “Bottom’s Up.”
That wasn’t all. What made him think his wife would agree to raise her philandering husband’s illegitimate child? If I were that woman, I wouldn’t do it.
“Oh yes, she would,” he told me. My protests were greeted with scorn and he said my opinion wasn’t representative of most women.
So I took a poll among my friends. I described the situation and asked if they--alcoholic or not--would raise their cheating husband’s b------ child. None would. One friend said, “I might take the baby, but I’d sure kick him out.”
So far as I know, he never rewrote the book and it was never published. I’m sure he’d have told me if it was. However, if you were that wife, would you have raised the child? Also, have you run into unbelievable characters in published books you’ve read?