I am finding myself absolutely fascinated by the reaction some readers have to certain things in The River Leith. I decided I’d blog about it, but I wanted to state upfront that I’m not arguing that these readers are wrong or that they shouldn’t feel as they do, I’m just explaining my own thinking and my own surprise.
BEYOND THIS POINT ARE SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS!! Read only if you are okay with being SPOILED!!
So, quite a number of people are calling Zach’s one night stand “cheating” and that’s absolutely fascinating to me. First, I should state that one of my biggest squicks in reading is adultery–which I generally think of as emotional and physical affairs. I can’t promise to never write adultery because characters do what they do, and yadda, but just know that for me adultery is really gross and heinous behavior that I struggle to have empathy for.
So, you might be surprised to hear that, in my mind, Zach didn’t cheat or commit adultery. From my point of view, how could he have? He wasn’t even in a relationship anymore!
I mean, as I see it, you’re no longer in a relationship if either person doesn’t consider themselves in a relationship with you. Now, if they’d been married, there would have still been a legal relationship there, and vows Zach had made, but they weren’t married, and as far as Leith was concerned they weren’t in a relationship either. To repeat: it’s my perspective that if the other person no longer considers themselves in a relationship with you (because they don’t remember who you are! and have no recollection of your existence! or for any other reason!) then you’re not in a relationship anymore. If you insist that you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t think they are in a relationship with you then that’s, well, disturbing at best, imho.
To me, it would be much more creepy and even emotionally nonconsensual to insist to a person that doesn’t remember you that he is in fact in a relationship with you and that you owe each other fidelity in some way. Like, imagine waking up tomorrow and a complete stranger is there saying, “I love you! We’re together! You’re my boo!” *shudders* Personally, I’d be all, “STEP OFF, MOTHERFUCKER!”
So, Zach’s choice to not push that onto Leith, to not force him into some kind of defacto commitment based on something that no longer existed for him was a lot more respectful in my opinion than insisting that Leith (and Zach) accept a relationship that he didn’t remember being in. (Should he have made that choice on his own? That’s a question the book brings up, and I feel like it’s a question that has many possible answers, though, I think Leith makes his opinion clear in the book itself. Strangely enough, I’m not sure I even agree with Leith all the time! But I often don’t agree with my characters.)
So, from my point of view, why should Zach hold himself to a higher standard of commitment than he’s holding Leith to? Why would he consider himself in a relationship with Leith when, as far as he’s concerned, Leith might very well take up with one of the cute nurses? And, yet, he does hold himself to that commitment anyway–a little too late. He does what he does and hates himself for it.
I’m okay with other people seeing what happened in the book differently. That’s not the point of this post. I guess the point is…well, I admit it never even occurred to me that people would interpret Zach’s actions as cheating or adultery or hold them against him. I felt like his actions were entirely understandable. I was actually more worried that people would find Leith’s reaction to discovering Zach’s one-night-stand to be abusive! LOL! Ha! Well, I couldn’t have been more off-base!
Anyway, obviously I’m not trying to police anyone’s mind. Everyone is welcome to react how they react, and feel how they feel. I’m just surprised and a little flabbergasted, but that’s okay! I suppose it’s good that people at least seem to feel strongly about the characters, even if some of those folks feel somewhat negatively about Zach.
Most importantly, as always, I’m so touched and pleased that there are readers out there who even want to give the books a try. So thank you to ALL OF YOU who have read the book. No matter your feelings or interpretations YOU ARE THE ABSOLUTE BEST! I adore you!!! 🙂 <3 <3 <3