"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
Thus begins Leo Tolstoy's novel, Anna Karenina (transl. Rosamund Bartlett).
Another first line--another universal truth. Or is it?
Happy families. Are they all the same? And what makes a family a happy one, really? Unhappy families. Is their unhappiness so distinct? How does one evaluate such a thing?
That's what makes this opening line so riveting--and memorable. It causes each reader to think about their own families, their own upbringing.
I think about the family I grew up in. Lots of happy moments. But painful ones too. We live in a broken world; we interact with broken people. How could there not be sadness and hurt and pain within family relationships? But is there something that tips the balance, turning an unhappy family into an happy one? And are unhappy family relationships irreparable?
Think about the family you grew up in. Would you say it was a happy one? What would a sibling say? Or a family friend? We're all unique, which means our perspective on our own upbringing is unique. As individuals, we look at our past and make a choice on how we see our family. Sometimes it's just attitude.
But I'm no psychological profiler. I'm an author, struggling to bring my characters to life, so that you, as a reader, find connection.
The main character in my novel grows up in a highly dysfunctional family. Through no choice of his own, he experiences deep inner hurt and betrayal. How does he respond? And how do I draw you into his story so that you care? Mostly through a lot of my own pain and turmoil as I struggle to find the right words, the right word pictures, to bring you along. That, and a whole lotta perseverance through many rounds of editing.
I hope. I really hope I've succeeded. Only time will tell.
I look forward to your responses.
And for now, if you wish to share your perspective on this famous first line, share something about your family, please do so. I'm always eager to interact with you, my reader.