I read less than half of “My Lost Daughter”, published by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg in 2010. I plowed on for a while even though I wasn’t enjoying it, but really, there are few things more pointless than reading for entertainment something that isn’t entertaining. For all I know the plot may be fine, but the characters were becoming more and more annoying.
The main character is a middle-aged judge (she has a grown daughter) who is in a relationship with a handsome, talented, and noble man who loves her very much and is sexually insatiable, to the point where they have intercourse on her desk in her chambers. And he’s not the first man to find her irresistible and occasion lengthy steamy writing.
Her ex husband, on the other hand, is barely better than a caricature of a horrible person, lazy, parasitical, and before his untimely death, having done everything possible to turn their daughter against her. He succeeded quite well, taking advantage of the fact that the hard working lawyer wasn’t home a lot. Up to the point where I stopped reading, the daughter had only appeared as a nasty, spoiled brat (although her mother keeps saying that she loves her more than anything). I finally put the book down when the loving mother pretends to take her now twenty-eight year old daughter out to dinner but instead carts her off to a mental institution she found (but didn’t research) on the internet.
How to explain this collection of obnoxious and unconvincing characters? I couldn’t help wondering whether the author wrote this book as unadulterated psychotherapy, bringing her sexual fantasies to life, defending her relationship with her child, and getting a lot of anger at a former husband or boyfriend off her chest. Psychotherapy may be good for the soul, but single-minded settling of scores doesn’t make a good read.
Great writers can create a variety of believable characters who are not themselves. Speaking as a less than great writer, I can attest that it’s hard not to write about yourself. I chose a male protagonist to help me avoid turning the character into me, and even so tended to find myself having him do what I would do in a given situation instead of what his character would do. Writing in the first person it must be especially hard not to turn your fictional character into yourself, and if you’re going to do that, better make sure that you’re pleasant company.