Chasing the HEA Dragon

I’ve been thinking about the end of the Sookie books – still years away – but will happen sooner or later. Charlaine Harris said recently on Facebook that:

I have a feeling my idea of a happy ending is not the
happy ending some of my readers are looking for.

Unfortunately, she’s absolutely right. I find happy endings to be way overrated, and something that some readers look for. What they want will never come about, and what they want isn’t realistic.

I get that it’s a book about vampires, but that’s the only element that differs from our everyday world. In Sookie’s world, people are mean, they’re prejudiced, cable television and medical care are luxuries. Rather than become a fairy princess due to Niall, she’s seen as a less than royal mutt who should be killed to make a point. That’s the happy endings of this reality, rather than some supernatural world where Sookie ends up rich vampire Queen of the entire USA.

In this reality, I still have scars from years ago. I am not unmarked by the passage of time. My parents are still dead, and not replaced by great substitutes. I am not rich. I do not have a boyfriend-slash-lackey to fulfil my every romantic desire. I do not have immortality. I have things I love, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t lost a substantial amount of things as well. I have no guarantee that I will live forever, and be happy all the time, or that two weeks from now, something awful won’t happen to me.

Happily ever after in this reality – well they just don’t tend to exist. Not unless you stop telling the story. I think about my parent’s lives – which have ended, and can now be chopped up into little segments like stories – and I can see places that I could tell a story and then stop before the next big bad happens. Their final ending is not so happy – as it is for none of us. They didn’t die together, in bed, holding hands, staring lovingly into each other’s eyes, knowing everything was right with the world.

Now, I myself wanted to get a good idea of what a HEA looked like for Charlaine Harris, and how it played out in her other series. Just so I could gear myself up for it – whether to expect juicy goodness, or whether she’d cram in unnatural stuff to make it your conventional Disney love story. I was so pleased. As far as authors go, it’s kinda rare to find a non-romance writer doing such things, and probably the closest I can think of is Terry Pratchett – but even his heroes have often just had an exciting (and wearing) adventure and are happy to be home, safe and boring.

I looked at both the Lily Bard series and the Harper Connelly series – both of which have officially ended. Aurora Teagarden is on-going, but I’ve read those too. It’s left in a rather convenient spot, with Roe macking on a favoured guy. Sookie has qualities from all those ladies – so I see similarities. I’m going to take Lily, just because Lily has been finished for a while, and I really liked Lily. If you’ve not read the books, then spoiler yourself at your own risk. For the sake of those of you stubborn like me who want to keep reading, it’s all vagued up for you.

Lily starts the books with nothing – she is a rape survivor who had an extremely traumatic time. She’s a woman stripped bare. Her emptiness is absolutely palpable. Lily is pragmatic in a manner that she is just about coping, and finds solace in the anonymity of her life as a house cleaner. She has no real contact with the outside world, and she has zero support. That is mostly Lily’s doing, as she cannot stand the sadness that her family have over mourning the loss of who she used to be, and the pressure to be what she isn’t – normal.

Lily ends the books with a guy who is not great shakes emotionally, but who rubs together with her changed self just fine. He hasn’t gone through life unscathed either.  Lily doesn’t get over her terrible ordeal, and isn’t back to the person she once was, but people have reached out to her in kindness. Rather than being judged for who she is, she has a close network of people who accept her as she is, and a guy she loves. He’s not the stifling type, and he’s tough as nails. Apart from Manfred, I kinda heart her HEA guy. 😀

Lily is married in a registry office (as was Aurora – and off page to boot – so watch out those of you holding out for Sookie and Eric to have a big white wedding – CH has never written one in all her previous history – Eric in a green-tshirt in the Fangtasia office with a knife may be all you ever get) and everything is rather subdued. It personally warmed my heart. Lily looks forward to reclaiming some of that which she lost in her rape, but doesn’t count on it.

Similar to Harper and her dreams of the big house she’ll have, this is a desperate wish for Lily, as is getting rid of telepathy and having a family are for Sookie. They are the unobtainable dreams of a lifetime – but they don’t happen in CH’s books. I dream of moving somewhere colder, and having a lot of fun with no ants around, but who knows if I’ll ever get there. Lots of people have these dreams, but it doesn’t mean that without them being fulfilled, our lives are complete shit. I can deal with where I am (sub-tropical Brisbane with 5 million ants per square metre goddammit) without thinking that my life is less than ideal.

One of the things CH said about Lily is that it was a happy ending because she ended up with more than she ever dreamed of having when the book started. Now, at the time of the start of the Sookie books, she had no one but Gran. Sookie was without a great network of supportive friends – she has more friends now than she’s probably ever had before – not a lot, but more than before. Sookie is moving towards a HEA by having dinners with Sam, nights over with Hunter, time spent with Claude, Dermot, Michelle and Jason (way more family than she had at the start); her friendship with Pam and Bill; her relationship with Eric.  These are all things that Sookie has gained.

Furthermore, Sookie thought she’d die alone and a virgin as well, with no relaxation. Since finding supernatural creatures, this is more than she ever dreamed she has. She has a type of fulfilment she never dreamed she’d get. I always remember when she first kissed Bill – her thoughts that it would be “another thing” she was denied – the inability to be close to someone.

Now, does Sookie have to pay a price for these things – sure. Having a guy only available half the day, with a serious case of terminal death, and violent colleagues is a very high price to pay for orgasms, companionship and self esteem. I wouldn’t want to pay that price…but then I say that from the luxury of a place where I can have all that stuff without having to compromise. Maybe if I was a telepath who couldn’t touch people without being in their heads, I might appreciate a guy – even if he is dead – that I can cuddle at will.

I have paid prices for stuff in my life. Instead of doing law, I did criminology – because I wanted to see my kids before their thirtieth birthday. I had my kids and my marriage young, so I sacrificed a whole heap of partying because of the circumstances. I have to have a brown couch because my husband likes its elegant look (I freaking hate brown). My towels are not folded correctly because someone else folds them for me.  All of those things I’ve willingly accepted, because I want the alternate benefits or the benefits that came with them. My HEA is fine with me, even if it does include brown couches and incorrectly folded towels.

So what do I think Sookie’s HEA will look like? I think it will look very similar to how it is now – except the Eric portion of her life will settle down. At this point in time, it’s his shit that’s up in the air – not Sookie’s. Eric’s rival/boss is trying to kill Sookie and Eric, not the other way around. Sookie’s life is relatively settled – with the fairies gone, that’ll only continue.

I don’t think Sookie is going to be Vampire Queen of New Orleans, or Fairy Princess of the Royal Brigant line. She’s not going to find herself miraculously pregnant, and she’s not going to quit work and cut herself off from everybody but Eric and Pam (thank God). She’s going to have a little more than she needs – but not everything she wants.

I suspect that a substantial portion of readers will be very unhappy with the prospect of a life similar to the one she has now.  For them, she must have the perfect job, the manor house, the billions of dollars (let me tell you if Eric has billions of dollars lying around, he’s way more stupid than I thought), the something or other title in some supernatural sphere, the epic white wedding, and possible babies. They’re all waiting for an ending that will never come – not in Sookie’s life…and not in their own.