I was away last week, and greatly missed my cat Misty. Which reminded me that reading about fictional characters who miss a living animal or a living person can be a very poignant thing. Hopefully followed by a happy reunion, but not always.
For instance, there’s the unnamed African-American boy in William H. Armstrong’s novel Sounder who deeply misses his dog after it’s cruelly shot while chasing a white sheriff’s deputy following the arrest of the boy’s father. The gravely injured Sounder disappears, and might be dead or alive. Some happiness but mostly sadness ensues in the book, which was made into an excellent 1972 movie (photo above).
Speaking of injured canines, struggling alcoholic farmer Link Ferris finds one by the side of the road in Albert Payson Terhune’s His Dog. Turns out to be a thoroughbred collie that had fallen off a vehicle, and the lonely Link keeps him after no one responds to his attempt to find the owners. Link and Chum (as he names the dog) develop an intensely strong bond, and Chum inspires Link to stop drinking and become successful. Eventually, the dog’s original owners come back into the picture, and the separation melancholy is overwhelming for Link and Chum. Then…
Moving on to missed humans, there’s one time period in J.K. Rowling’s four-books-so-far Cormoran Strike series where Cormoran and his investigative partner Robin Ellacott have a falling out. They miss each other professionally and, given the friendship and romantic tension between the two, personally as well.
Definitely missing each other romantically are Arkady Renko and Irina Asanova, who part ways at the end of Martin Cruz Smith’s novel Gorky Park — leaving readers to wonder if, when, and how they might reunite in one of the sequels.
Of course, war-themed novels often have characters who miss each other while one of them is in the military far way. For instance, Herman Wouk’s World War II novel The Caine Mutiny features the apart-for-years Navy man Willie Keith and his singer girlfriend May Wynn. L.M. Montgomery’s World War I novel Rilla of Ingleside has Canadian soldier Walter (son of the adult Anne of Anne of Green Gables) being intensely missed by his family — including his sister Rilla. And in Charles Frazier’s Civil War novel Cold Mountain, Ada Monroe and wounded Confederate Army deserter W.P. Inman greatly miss each other as Inman walks for months trying to return home.
Sometimes the one who’s off fighting dies.
Also set during WWII is Erich Maria Remarque’s The Night in Lisbon, in which a refugee from Nazi Germany relates the dramatic story of he and his wife Helen — their heartbreaking separation, their reunion, and the relationship’s ultimate fate.
Your favorite novels in which a character is much missed?
Oh, Misty was well taken care of by someone we had visit our apartment three times a day. 🙂
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece — about a controversial hotel and an anti-gun-violence mural — is here.