Just finished my A-Z author challenge! I started the year with U. The very first book back in January was The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I finished in three days ago. Oi vay. Obviously I have yet to write the full review, but I wanted to share an “ah ha” moment with you first. Ready?

I have more in common with Harry Potter than Jurgis Rudkus.

How could that be? Harry Potter is a teenage orphan wizard who lives in England while my only experience with England is 10 hours of layover to and from Germany. At least The Jungle is historical fiction set in the U.S., not that I’ve ever been to Chicago. Yet I found myself connecting with Harry more. I’ve been a teenager; I’ve had teachers I hated and teachers who hated me. I have close friends I would do anything for, I’m more likely to be on the sidelines at a ball, and I have friends who have adopted me into their family.

While I felt bad for Jurgis, it was sympathy and not empathy for I had no frame of reference from which to draw. I’ve never been married, didn’t immigrate, and even in a foreign country no one tried to take advantage of me. I’ve never been an alcoholic or worked in the disgusting conditions of the meat packing plant. I’m young enough that the U.S. laws have changed drastically compared to the world in The Jungle. While I know the world described did exist, I am as disconnected from it as if I was reading about the Middle Ages.

It’s seriously hindering my desire to continue reading the classics, but I also don’t want to go back on something I’ve got on my bucket list.


Do you need to relate to the characters to enjoy a book?