Let's Try This "Book Boyfriend" Thing Again . . .
@ Stuck In Books
Given the overwhelming reaction from the Book Boyfriend of the Week regulars, my first "book boyfriend" went down like a lead balloon. Maybe the following iron balloon will be better received. ;-P
This weekend, I am writing about a man whom an immortal goddess once fell passionately in love with, but whom their daughter was so miserable with that she ran away from home. He may not sound like such a great catch, but when I finally "met" him in the series, it was love at first sight and without any guilt.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians
by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson and the Olympians
by Rick Riordan
"My dad's resented me since I was born . . . He never wanted a baby. When he got me, he asked Athena to take me back and raise me on Olympus because he was too busy with his work . . .
". . . When I was five he got married and totally forgot about Athena. He got a 'regular' mortal wife and had two 'regular' mortal kids, and tried to pretend I didn't exist . . . His wife--my stepmom--treated me like a freak. She wouldn't let me play with her children. My dad went along with her. Whenever something dangerous happened--you know, something with monsters--they would both look at me resentfully, like 'How dare you put our family at risk.' Finally, I took the hint. I wasn't wanted. I ran away."
Wow. What was Athena thinking when she wanted to have a child with Frederick Chase? While it makes sense that the Greek goddess of war and wisdom would have been attracted to an American History professor from a military academy, couldn't she have also picked someone who would have been a halfway decent father? A demigod's life is hard enough for a child, who has to deal with one absent parent who either doesn't care about him or believes that it is wrong for a deity to interfere too much in his own child's life. For the mortal parent to be indifferent as well is cold.
One thing I love about Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series is its weaving of real emotions into the otherwise whimsical fantasy. While the young demigods at Camp Half-Blood go on heroic quests and slay monsters, they must also deal with the emotional cost of their parents' selfishness, "sex positivism" (Yes, I just went there), and inability to keep promises--and Annabeth Chase, who preferred living on the streets by herself at seven years old to staying with her father and stepmother, has paid a very high price. Riordan knows what happens when family members fail.
But he also gets that children don't often see their parents clearly . . . that sometimes an absent parent can be idealised as some kind of god . . . while the one at home is unfairly scapegoated. And that's why Annabeth's growth depends on her getting over her grievances, however justified, and accepting that the past will never match the vision of family life she carries in her heart . . .
[They] sat on a blanket in Central Park . . . I recognised Annabeth's dad from photos she'd shown me--an athletic-looking, sandy-haired guy in his forties. He was holding hands with a beautiful woman who looked a lot like Annabeth. She was dressed casually--in blue jeans and a denim shirt and hiking boots--but something about the woman radiated power. I knew that I was looking at the goddess Athena . . .
The whole scene glowed in a warm, buttery light. [They] were talking and laughing, and when they saw Annabeth, their faces lit up with delight. Annabeth's mom and dad held out their arms invitingly . . .
It's a dream which any child from a broken home can relate to, and I empathise deeply. Life would be perfect, wouldn't it, if our parents just got along and wanted to be a family as much as we did? How interesting, then, that Riordan, though also sympathetic, reveals that this fantasy is actually rooted in the fatal flaw of hubris.
As Annabeth explains to Percy, hubris is "thinking that you can do things better than anyone else . . . even the gods . . . And you start thinking . . . 'If I could tear this all down, I would do it better' . . ." But just because we are clear-sighted enough to see our parents' mistakes for what they are, it does not immediately follow that we would do everything better. Note that if Annabeth had had her way the first time she imagined her ideal family, her half-brothers wouldn't exist. And it takes amazing hubris to say that it would be a better world if someone--not to mention two someones--had never been born.
So how bad is Annabeth's life with her father? It takes her friends (and us) two books before we finally meet him and find out . . .
After hearing Annabeth gripe about her dad for two years, I was expecting him to have devil horns and fangs. I was not expecting him to be wearing an old-fashioned aviator's cap and goggles. He looked so weird, with his eyes bugging out through the glasses, that we all took a step back on the front porch.
"Hello," he said in a friendly voice. "Are you delivering my airplanes?"
. . . "Um, no sir," I said . . . "We're friends of Annabeth."
"Annabeth?" he straightened as if I'd just given him an electric shock. "Is she all right? Has something happened?"
. . . He took off his cap and goggles. He had sandy-coloured hair like Annabeth and intense brown eyes. He was handsome, I guess, for an older guy, but it looked like he hadn't shaved in a couple of days, and his shirt was buttoned wrong, so one side of his collar stuck up higher than the other side.
Apparently, reports of Frederick Chase's evil have been greatly exaggerated. =P As we learn more about him, we see that he is a caring, if absent-minded family man . . . and a huge nerd whose hobbies are recreating famous historical battles with small scale models and restoring vintage aircraft. (Okay, now I know what Athena was thinking. Be still, my mortal heart!!!) But the most important fact for his daughter's consideration is that the woman he fell in love with and made her stepmother clearly loves her, too. Mrs. Chase may not be as good as a "real" mother, but boy, does she come close.
I can't admire the Olympians for being irresponsible parents and drive-by lovers, but I can give credit where it is due when an immortal goddess falls for a totally swoon-worthy mortal. Frederick Chase is All That and a cup of ambrosia. Athena has got taste.
So am I getting this Book Boyfriend thing right yet? =P
Image Sources: a) The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, b) The Sea of Monsters, c) The Titan's Curse