Sometimes I think we forget how the generation above us made a sensible life for themselves. We fail to give our moms and dads credit for having figured out how to well…figure it out. Life has always been complicated, the addition of technology as not only a tool, but our new best friend is making it worse. And yes, this flummoxes people like my 88-year-old Mom. But let’s not pretend it doesn’t do the same to us too.
I was trying to explain the concept of a pre-quel to my mom the other day. My mom and sister and I have become rabid fans of the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. There are like 20 of them and I’m happy to read them in whatever order the books come into my life. Some I get from the library, some I get from my friends, and I read whichever ones I haven’t read yet. And then I pass them on to my mom and my sister.
The one thing that was bugging all of us is that all of a sudden (Spoiler Alert, but probably not really if you’re a fan) is that everyone was talking to Jack about how sorry they were because his brother died. What? When did that happen? He was just alive two books ago. And how did he die? Nobody (at least not the characters) is talking.
So my mom and sister decided to put an end to this. They are both Virgos. They cannot abide this frivolous lack of organization. My sister finally put her foot down. We are going to look in the newest book we have, get a list of all the titles and start from the beginning.
Turns out not one of us ever read the very first book by Lee Child with Jack Reacher as his main character, the Killing Floor. That’s where his brother, Joe Reacher dies.
Now my mom is confused, outraged and refuses to accept this.
“I ‘ve read dozens of these books, so far,” she said, “and the brother is alive in some of them. This doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well,” I told her, “perhaps the author wanted to go back in time with Jack’s life and talk about where he came from, his mom and his brother and their life together. So he had to create a pre-quel.”
That seemed to be the end of the conversation, until a few days later when we were going shopping.
“I need you to give that book, “The Killing Floor” back to me, ” she said.
“Okay, but I’m reading it. Can it wait?”
“Well, okay, but I wrote down the publication date as 1997, and I just want to see if that’s right because I’ve gone through all the Jack Reacher books I have at home and none of them are before 1997. I just don’t understand it. I must’ve written it down incorrectly.”
“What are you talking about, Mom?”
“It just can’t be right that that book was written in 1997 because his mother and brother are dead and they are alive in other books.”
Now, here’s the thing. Do not try and use Star Wars as an example of a pre-quel to your 88-year-old mother. I tried. She’s never seen any Star-Wars-anything. Princess Leia sounds naughty, Yoda sounds like exercise and Obewon Kenobe sounds like sushi, all of which she detests.
Since pre-quels didn’t seem to exist before Star Wars, well, you’re just going to have to figure it out.
I’m not finished The Killing Floor yet, but I’m thinking about ripping out the copyright page and dummying up one that says 2016. For my mom, for my sanity, for senior citizens book clubs everywhere, and for all readers born before 1983.
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Cathy is the author of Showering with Nana: Confessions of a Serial Caregiver