When the Rest of the Story Is Bad

Surely you remember Paul Harvey with his “and now you know the rest of the story.”  In his show, the rest of the story was always surprising, frequently meaningful, and sometimes moving. (And also, according to Snopes, possibly not really true!)
As a child who read a lot, both fiction and non-fiction, I used to wonder a lot about the rest of the story.  What happened to those people in my books later?  There was no easy way to find out back then.
But now, we have the Internet.
I am going to gently to suggest to you that sometimes it’s better not to try to find out the rest of the story.  Doing so may bring disappointment, disillusionment, or genuine grief.  It may spoil the original much-loved book for you forever as well.
You know that Toby Keith song, “I wish I didn’t know now what didn’t know then“?  That expresses my feelings exactly.  If you’ve read either of the two books I’m getting ready to talk about, you might want to stop reading soon.
I loved the book Karen by Marie Killilea.  It was the story of her daughter’s triumph over cerebral palsy, condition that was poorly understood in the 1940s when she was born.  I was delighted to read the sequel, With Love from Karen, a few years later.  Y’all, I read these books literally to pieces.    I wondered for years what happened to Karen and her family and wished there was a way to find out.
I totally could have done without knowing that Karen’s three little nieces died in a fire a few years later.
But at least when those books were written no one knew the terrible real-life sequel.  Can you tell me why anyone would write an inspirational book knowing that unspeakable things happened to most of the characters as a DIRECT RESULT of the supposedly triumphant tale?
I’m talking about Seven Alone, which was originally published as On to Oregon and which I first became aware of by watching the televised Saturday morning movie.  Then I bought the book from one of those Scholastic Book Clubs and read it over and over.
That one is about a family who are following the Oregon Trail when their parents die.  The children are supposed to be sent back to family in Pennsylvania, but instead the oldest boy–just thirteen at the time–sneaks off with his younger brother and five little sisters (including a newborn baby) to fulfill his father’s dream.  Needless to say, after many adventures and brushes with death, they make it to Oregon where they are adopted by the Whitmans who run a mission for the Indians.
Now as an adult I had already fallen a bit out of love with this story, because why did the boy ALMOST CAUSE THE DEATHS OF ALL HIS LITTLE SIBLINGS just because his father had this stupid idea to go to Oregon that had already killed him and his wife?  But since the story had a happy ending, I could forgive him.
But that was before I learned  . . . the REST of the story. 🙁
If you or your kids ever played the educational computer game Oregon Trail in which practically everyone dies of dysentery or drowning or the common cold, you may remember that the Whitman Mission was a stop along the trail.  Depending on when you were making your trip, you might see the Whitmans, or THE MISSION MIGHT BE DESTROYED.
Yes, you read that right.  My kids started playing this game, I saw that part, I looked on the Internet, and I found out that Indians attacked the Mission a few years after the children arrived and killed the Whitmans and both boys.  Lucky me, I got to read one sister’s eye-witness account of this horror.  Then the girls were all abducted by the Indians and at least one died in captivity.  I don’t remember the exact details and don’t expect me to go look them up either because I don’t ever want to read that again.
So here’s my advice to you:  If there’s a book you’ve loved, and you’re curious to know what happened next, wait for the sequel.  If there’s not one, you probably don’t want to know the rest of the story.

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