Just a disclaimer, I do not entirely despise romance. I’m just highly picky about it. Strong as the love between a man and a woman may be, I often find that a romance novel will tend to make this powerful force seem almost trivial. (Or maybe I am just a curmudgeon?) There are exceptions, and I do intend post a list someday. But my favourite examples of literary love tend to come from areas outside romance.
Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance from the Mysterious Benedict Society are a great example of love between friends. The bond between this tight-knit group is a common theme without the books. It is even the driving force as the Society works in synch with intimate understanding, goes above and beyond to help one another out, and they way they feel comforted and strengthened merely by being together. I ought to give extra credit for they way they stick together even when exasperated with one another—I especially admire Reynie’s patience and understanding with the talented but incorrigible Constance.
“Is this what family is like: the feeling that everyone’s connected, that with one piece missing, the whole thing’s broken?”
One of—if not the—best examples of family love is found in the Wingfeather Saga, particularly between Janner and his brother Kalmar in The Warden and the Wolf King. The beauty behind this brotherly bond is how it develops. At the start of the story, Janner resents having to act as guardian to Kalmar, who in turn would much rather do things his own way. By the end, however, the brothers have grown into their roles as King and Throne Warden. Kalmar learns to put the needs of others above himself, even at great risk. Janner learns to lay down his pride, and put everything on the line for his brother’s sake. Their story is a powerful reminder that love involves servanthood and sacrifice.
“Many years later, Armulyn the Bard added words—words of redemption and courage, vouchsafing the tale of Janner’s honour for many Throne Wardens to come, so that all children, whether Annieran, or Hollish, or Skreean—or from some other faraway land—would know the glory of servanthood and sacrifice and selfless love.”
Amy, from the Web-comic Space Boy, is among the most inspiring heroines due to her gracious love to those around her. Amy does not take sides in rifts between friends, but rather acts as a comforter. She is loyal even to those who try to shut her out, she sees the good in people and nurtures it. She will even reach out to those who ‘don’t deserve it’. Without giving too much away, the key plot to the story follows Amy as she gains the trust of a grieving boy and helps him heal through her stubborn insistence to see him as a living soul.
“When I look at you, I don’t see a failure, I see my friend. And I refuse to see you any other way. I won’t define you by your mistakes. I won’t hate you.”
I find it all the more powerful that love, this potent attribute of God, can be so multifaceted.