Warning, this article contains nothing but spoilers.
Charlaine Harris recently wrapped up the Sookie Stackhouse books with Dead Ever After, and True Blood returns to us this Sunday. If I was a betting man, I would say that this is likely to be the last season of the show. The storyline has gotten a little ridiculous, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that my main motivation to continue coverage this year was to see Rutina Wesley and Kristin Bauer van Straten cement their new relationship with copious amounts of copulation.
And the music still kicks ass, of course. So see you on Rocks Off on Monday morning.
For now, though, it's time to talk about the books. Thirteen novels is a whole lot of one protagonist. In terms of word count, Sookie is up there with the likes of Sherlock Holmes. Hell, even the modern vampire queen Anne Rice only made it to 12 books in the Vampire Chronicles, and she didn't even stay focused on the same character in all of them.
Yet Sookie's ending, to me, perfectly wrapped up her entire story arc wonderfully. We're far enough down in this article now that I feel safe stating it baldly. Sookie winds up with Sam Merlotte, owns part of the bar that has been her home base for so long, and learns to accept herself and her life in Bon Temps free from constant judgment. She winds up whole and alive, and that's how it always should have been.
Yet that's not what fans are saying. Here's a collection of quotes from Amazon, where 1-star reviews out number 5-star ones by 50 percent.
"At the end, Sookie is worst than when the series started, because she now knows what she is going to be missing. She will have a dull existence."
"Honestly, if I had wanted that ending I would have watched any teen romcom from the 90s. It was that exact same formula. Girl is finally happy where she started, everyone SUDDENLY loves her (those that labeled her Crazy Sookie...), and whaddaya know... her bff who has been right under her nose is the guy she ends up with.. but you know.. not in a crazy, passionate, spectacular way.. but because he's always been around."
"Worst of all she leaves Sookie victimized once again. She is denied any real choice and she "settles" for what love and support she could get from safe Sam."
"These books were always primarily based around the vampire characters and situations. That is most likely what brought all the fans on board to begin with. I was disappointed that this book, the series FINALE, had hardly anything to do with the vampires."
This goes on for 93 pages of reviews, so I'll stop there. The primary gripe with the ending of Sookie's story seems to be that she didn't end up with Eric or even Bill. I'm sure at some point Charlaine Harris considered having that ending and probably a hundred others, but the reality is that Sookie was never, ever going to live happily ever after with a vampire. That's not the story Harris was telling, even if it's the story people tell themselves that it is.Flashback Aw, Sookie, Sookie Now: An Interview with Charlaine Harris
You have to remember that Sookie's telepathy isn't a superpower, and isn't meant to represent one. Neither is vampirism, lycanthropy, or any of the other supernatural attributes that occur in the books. At one point Harris was going to put Sookie in a freakin' wheelchair. That should give you a better idea of what her goal was when she crafted Sookie.
Her life when we meet her is a mess, and only her remarkable will enables her to continue to survive on the edge of her small town. She's looked at as crazy, she's shunned and objectified, and her true friends are few and far between. Her telepathy doesn't benefit her hardly at all, and serves as a barrier to any meaningful relationships.
Then one day another "disabled" person comes into her life, and even though he's a horrible person in pretty much every regard she falls head over heels in love with him because for the first time she's found someone who doesn't care about her condition.
How different would Sookie's story have been if all the metaphors were dropped and she really had been handicapped in some way, What if she'd been a paraplegic, autistic, or perhaps mentally unstable from years of sexual abuse? Or what if Harris had gone science fiction instead and made Sookie an alien in a human world? None, really.
Because in a way, the books aren't even about Sookie at all. They're about the town of Bon Temps. In this little backwater someone like Sookie is a pariah. Yet, as they're exposed to a wider world, a world that inspires so much more of their bigotry and small-mindedness in them until that reaction overloads from too much exposure.
Then they see Sookie, Crazy Sookie, who has worked right along side them for the benefit of all classes and creeds and species, and they realize that she's not so different. Or that she is, but that it doesn't matter. Now they can see her as she always wanted to be seen, as a business owner and neighbor and friend and churchgoer. All of Sookie's adventures lead her to what she was really looking for, a place in her home.
The vampire world was never her world, though she accepted it as she accepts all things. She's a lover of the light. Hell, her one vice is sunbathing. The vast, shadowy realm of darkness full of mystery and majesty wasn't what she wanted. It's just that it was the first world that wanted her.
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There are plenty of books where people melt away into "exciting" worlds and leave "dull existences" behind. This isn't one of those. For someone like Sookie, just being able to live a life as a bar-owner and not be called snide names is exciting. That core undercurrent of passionate normalcy is actually what makes Sookie such an amazing character in the first place. She's basically the ant-Bella Swan, and I thank the literary gods that Harris didn't cave to pressure to make her a vampire or something ridiculous like that.
Sookie got what she always wanted, and that's a good ending.