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April 2, 2012

Harlan Coben’s “Stay Close,” and Tragedy

by Brendan

I got under the covers at a little after 9:00 tonight and started reading more of Harlan Coben’s latest book, StayClose, and I just had to share some thoughts.

Coben is a fave with me (I’ve read 15-20 of his books), and he sometimes scares me.
I’m on page 158, so about 40% through.  The main character, Cassie (or Megan, or Maygin) has made a terrible mistake, yielded to an urge to tie up some lose ends in her old life — or maybe she’s just curious about people from her past, or maybe she’s stuck in her past.  It looks now as though her actions are going to lead to serious consequences for her new family, a husband and two kids.  It’s looking very, very bad.  I don’t think I want to read any more tonight.

Harlan Coben's "Stay Close"

But I’m reading two other books at the same time, so I’ll look at one or both of them and get back to Stay Close tomorrow evening.
It’s quite a compliment to a writer when he draws me into the story and fills me with such apprehension and dread.  I’m thinking that this is as deep a book, as close to a real tragedy, as anything I’ve read by Harlan Coben.  You see, Cassie is admirable in many ways (she has the stature necessary for a tragic hero), but she has a flaw, a hubris (pride, excess, imbalance, poor judgment) that makes her fall into error.
The great Greek tragic dramatist Sophocles wrote, in a short choral ode at the end of Antigone,
          The deeds of the proud will be met
          By might blows of fate,
          And at long last,
          These blows will teach us wisdom
I love the “at long last.”  Sophocles knew how hardheaded humans are, and he knew how all-too-often wisdom comes too late.  I suppose we should thank our lucky stars (and a benevolent God) when our wisdom doesn’t come too late.  Because wisdom coming too late would be a tragedy.
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