I’ve been having a difficult time, lately. The stress of the commitments I have agreed to this summer have been weighing on me, so I had been looking forward to reading the newest and the last Harry Potter book, the Deathly Hallows, to perk me up before starting school in a few weeks.

I have loved the Harry Potter series every since a co-worker loaned me her Book 1 and told me that it was like no other “children’s book” she had read. Reluctantly, I took the book (which wasn’t very long) and began reading it. By Chapter 3, I was hooked. The story of such a sweet, young child with such a magnificent back-story was simply enchanting. I bought and read the next three books in about two or three weeks, and then waited with the rest of the world for Book 5 to be published. Who doesn’t want a friend like Harry Potter? Someone who struggles with very human emotion and fallibility, yet still inspires people to be better than they thought they could be? Gentle and kind, intuitive, meant for something great – this kid embodies all of the qualities that I always wanted, but never could quite get at, when I was growing up. And the books themselves were structured such that the complexities of life were borne out – struggle and success, pleasure mixed with pain, good times and bad. So, I went into Book 7 with a sense that I was going to go on a similar journey, though I knew there was a possibility for a really bad ending.

The First Signs of Trouble

The book started as others had – strange and dark scenes with danger and peril right around the corner. As I read on, though, the tone never quite seemed to let up. The crushing blow to me came on page 56 – why the hell did she kill off Hedwig? People, yes, but what did Harry’s pet ever do? Is nothing sacred? And so it went. The entire book was one long torture-fest. Literally. People being killed arbitrarily, people being tortured, the whole world gone to hell. I understand that the wizarding world is being taken over by evil, but did she have to be so damned careless with it? I don’t watch Stephen King movies for a reason – why on earth do I want to read a Harry Potter book like this? With characters that I have known for 7 years and come to love? There were even new characters whose description of their long abuse was excruciating to read (the dragon in Gringotts, anyone? Hellllooooo!) The book was cruel and agonizing and painful. I cried. And cried. And cried.

As he usually does, Brent reads the ending of stories first, so he knew the ending before I even got the book in my hands. We’ve been through this before. I have to preface everything I say to him with “Don’t tell me anything – I don’t want to know how it ends, but,” and then I’d rant for a few minutes about something I had just read. After the first few chapters of this, he finally said to me, “I’m not going to tell you how it ends, but it’s all going to be OK.” Which, really, is tantamount to telling me how it ends. I kept this in mind as Dobby died (and Harry buried him with his blood, sweat and tears), as Bellatrix tortured Hermione, as the Hogwarts Battle raged on, and as Harry learned his final fate in the Pensieve. Even as he was walking through the Forest to his almost-final face-off with Voldemort, I kept asking, “Why does she keep doing this?” By “she” of course, I meant Rowling. Was she so hell-bent on finishing this series that she felt nothing for the people that she created and, subsequently, tortured over and over and over again? Does she get some sadistic pleasure out of so brutally sacrificing so many of the good guys? I just don’t understand it, and this has bugged me since I finished the book on Monday.

Give Me a Break, Already

My problem with the book isn’t that it was dark. It was that there were no points of levity. In the other books, Harry had his Quidditch and experienced the joys (and pain) of falling in love, going to dances, learning new spells, hanging out with Hagrid and the Weasley boys. There were no points to breathe in this book. Even the wedding (which had promise) was broken up Godfather-style. The fear and sorrow simply never let up! Ugh! It was exhausting, and frankly, unsatisfying. The ending, no matter how “happily ever after” it was, just left me feeling hollow and sad. Very, very sad.

My Search for Answers

In search for some answers (particularly – why she killed Hedwig), I’ve been searching the HP fan sites. Of course, it’s too early to get any real answers, but I’m astonished at how many people absolutely loved this book. And the parts that they didn’t like were the parts where the three kids were wandering around the countryside looking for Horcruxes, which I quite enjoyed. Maybe I have to read it again to have it sink in, but right now, I’m feeling like this was the worst of the series, which makes me even sadder since this is the last of the series. I was hoping for a brighter, more triumphant, more filling conclusion. Something to bring some wholeness to the story. Something I now know I will never get.

Anyway, so I’m sitting here this week, stressed in my real life, sad in my fantasy life, looking for answers that aren’t there, and trying to move through it all, in general. I received my new computer that I bought for school, and named it “Hermione” – a name that I thought would bring some closure to this pain (kind of like when I was seriously considering getting a tattoo of a fluffy white cat over my heart when Flur died), and would act as a reminder to myself of hard work and dedication as I journey off to law school. (What can I say? I guess I’m more sensitive than I let on.) So imagine my surprise to learn on JK Rowling’s official site today that Hermione and I share the same birth date! I’m feeling the universe trying to tell me something…

Death, Death, and More Death

I know that most of you who are reading this think I’m a nut. And you’re quite right. Why do I care so much about fictional characters in a book written by someone else making billions of dollars off of this. After all, she has more claim to those characters than I have and she can kill off and torture whomever she pleases. Well, the truth is that I am sick and tired of death. Death in the news, death in the wars, death on the streets, death in the mousetraps, death, death, death, death, death. I know people in Harry’s world die. I totally lost it when Dumbledore died in the Half-Blood Prince, but I guessed he would be in the final book as an Obiwon Kenobi figure. But the death and destruction of the total innocent really gets me at my core, and what Rowling put Harry through just to prove her point is really appalling to me. He is a kid. Make someone else go through it. Not Harry. As Snape put it – like fattening him up to send him to the slaughter. I don’t get it.

My only hope is that, since the movies have generally been watered down versions of the books, that the story will soften some when it gets to the big screen, because I’m not sure when or if I’ll have the courage to read this book again.

— Update —

I’m now feeling a bit better, reading some of the blogs out there tonight. There are quite a few people outraged that she killed off Hedwig – and in such an ignoble way (confined in a cage, defenseless). Many think (and I tend to agree) that if she were to die, she should have done it attacking Death Eaters and protecting Harry. My preference would have been to keep her at the Weasley’s, safe from harm — I mean, where was Pigwidgeon in all of this? Yet another faction is ticked that Umbridge lived while Hedwig died. Even one person thinks that Umbridge should have died by having Hedwig drop a rock on her head.

Yep. This is the kind of dialog I needed to see. Hedwig’s was an utterly pointless death with no real plot function. I’m just going to pretend that page 56 never happened…

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