In the first half of the fifth chapter of A Wizard Alone, Nita wonders if she’s getting better. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of grief.
It’s fascinating to see this from an outside perspective because I can notice things that Nita does not. Plus, I’ve been through this! Grief didn’t always manifest in the same way, but there’s a lot here that I relate to in how Duane has chosen to write grief for Nita, Dairine, and their father. So as I read the first half of this chapter, I could see the small ways in which Nita was moving on. Towards the latter scenes, she became aware of this, too, at least in her own way.
That’s my theory. At the start of her Friday, even her father notes that she’s been more active with wizardry in the last day or so than she has been since her mother died. Note how quickly Nita wants to brush this off; it’s a defensive reaction, one that I think later feeds into why she’s worried that she’s using wizardry to avoid life. And in her father’s case, there’s a similar sense of inadequacy, though he’s concerned he’s not being a good enough parent. All of these people feel like they’re not enough. Why? What causes that?
Even if the text doesn’t say this, I’d like to offer up an idea. See, I struggled with feeling like I didn’t hurt enough, that once I started moving on from my father’s death, I had not grieved as I was supposed to. Which is obviously an absurd idea! It’s not like grief is an RPG and you have to level up to a certain amount in order to progress to the next level. Yet my brain told me that I’d done it wrong, that I had not cried enough, that I wasn’t sad for the proper length of time. And I can see something like this in all three of the Callahan family members. As Nita finds interest in this new possible errantry (while still being largely uninterested in school work), I sensed guilt. How was it fair that regular life didn’t keep boredom and existential dread away, but wizardry did?
As I’m re-reading the scenes at Nita’s home and school, I notice that she’s not thinking about her mother, about grief, about being in pain… they’re some of the only scenes thus far where Nita feels like the old Nita. And granted, she’ll never return to that version of herself; that’s just not how people work. When she meets up with Kit, it’s the same dynamic. You can see bits of what their relationship used to look like, and it’s more than we saw in the first few chapters of the book. Of course, I’m more thrilled by what is coming in the future. Will Kit and Nita work together on each other’s assignments? Are they the same assignment? (I’M STILL GOING FOR THIS OPTION, I THINK THEY BOTH HAVE TO DO WITH DARRYL.) How will the dynamic of their relationship change now that Nita’s life has changed so drastically?
I don’t know yet, but I’m thankful that Nita had someone like Tom to talk to about all of this. He made a fine point: wizardry is in the service of life, so Nita isn’t exactly avoiding life by focusing on it. I’d agree that perhaps the Powers That Be have a purpose for Nita that involves exactly what she’s doing:
“They value the work we do sufficiently to avoid pushing us to function when it wouldn’t be appropriate to the wizard’s own best interests. Emergencies do come up; but routinely, if being on duty would impair your own status, you’re not called up.”
Which is fair, but in the video reading, I realized that this made me more confused about Darryl. Why did the Powers activate his Ordeal now? Were they aware of what was going on with him? I STILL DON’T KNOW AND I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL KIT TRIES TO TALK WITH DARRYL AGAIN.
Anyway, Tom’s advice to Nita was sound, and I hope she doesn’t beat herself up too much over what she’s going through. The alien translation/communication issue is a fascinating one, and focusing on it doesn’t make her a bad person. It’s okay for her to want to feel something other than pain, and it’s also okay for her to wallow in that pain if she wants to. The most important thing is that she feels she can be herself and feel what she wants to.
Mark Links Stuff
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