In the twentieth and final chapter of The Wizard’s Dilemma, Nita begins to come to terms with her choices. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of death.
This is not how I expected this book to end.
I don’t take Duane for a grim writer, and I know I’m saying that while having only read maybe a tenth of her body of work. But there is a hope in the Young Wizards books, even if terrible things happen, even if people I love died, even if things don’t go the way I want them to. You can see that all over “Dawn,” a chapter about possibility and dreaming of the value of life.
Yet I admit that my perception of The Wizard’s Dilemma changed as I read it. First, the real “dilemma” was hidden from me, so I couldn’t quite tell what this book was about. Then, once it was clear that Nita’s mother’s cancer would consume the main plot, I still held out the hope that she would be cured by it. However, Duane took this story to a very dark and uncomfortable place. It wasn’t easy to read about Nita getting so close to choosing an extension on her mother’s life over her own wizardry. It was during that time that I began to seriously consider that Nita would fail against the Lone One and that Nita’s mother would die in this book. I actually felt it was certain to happen, especially once she presented herself in the last chapter.
Duane’s choice to hang Nita’s mother’s death over our heads is bold. It allows hope to foster in spite of all the pain, and it works as a wonderful metaphor for life. Nita could never have stopped her mother from dying. While her wizardry bought her some time – time which she’s clearly going to use to get as close to her mom as she can – the inevitable is still there. Her mother will die, it will hurt, and that’s just how life works. Now, I’m not always a big fan of hearing shit like that. I bristle whenever someone says, “Well, that’s just how the world is.” No, because we could change it if we just tried!
Yet this cannot be changed. And instead of this coming off as a condescending reminder of that, Duane uses Nita’s dream with her mother to put forth the idea that our work here, in this life and this world, will matter. Their time together matters. Nita’s work and her faith in that work will help guide her to the place her mother is headed, which might very well be Timeheart.
WHICH MEANS I MUST ALSO PUBLICLY SUPPORT THE IDEA THAT NITA’S MOM BECAME A WIZARD BECAUSE OF HER EXPERIENCE AGAINST THE LONE ONE. Like??!?!?!? THIS IS THE COOLEST IDEA, OKAY. I love it, I think it totally works as character development for her, and the canon appears to support this theory. She fought the Lone One! She defeated it in a way that led to her banishing It from her body. (Not the cancer, mind you, but the physical manifestation of It.) Who else has ever done that???
I’ve been thinking lots about death lately. And legacies. And what sort of world I want to leave behind when I go. There are some days when my thoughts turn dire, and who can blame me? Look at what’s happening in my country right now. As the days dwindle away, as we get closer to that damn inauguration, I fear a lot of things. Which is precisely why this message felt so appropriate to me. Duane does not urge Nita to simply give up and wait until she dies so she can see her mother again. The final chapter of The Wizard’s Dilemma posits that Nita should thrive in the face of pain and loss because each day is a chance to prove that life is worth living:
“Since there’s no way out of it, let’s enjoy every day. Heaven only knows what may happen afterward, but they can’t take away from us what we make, one day at a time, just all of us together. That, we keep.”
Experiences are unique. Singular. Owned. They are ours! Yes, it’ll be difficult for Nita to keep the faith, but part of me believes that this is why Nita’s mother appears in her daughter’s dream. Initially, I thought it was her way of saying goodbye, and that Duane was ending this book with her death. Instead, I can see how Nita’s mother can spend this time fortifying Nita for the future. Building up her defenses. Giving her memories and experiences she can treasure once she passes away. Reminding her daily what a beautiful thing it is to be alive.
I don’t always feel that way, but you know what? Today, that was a great reminder, and I’m thankful for it.
Mark Links Stuff
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