Sheikinah Legacy by Gary Lindbergh

In Amazon reviews you will see the phrase “I just didn’t like the main character” or “I just couldn’t relate to her” or him. In the last book I read — well mostly read — I realized what caused those feelings: the author didn’t like her. If the author doesn’t like a character, there is no way he/she can make the character likeable or even believable. And to varying degrees, all characters, even the bad guys, have to be believable. We need to understand what motivates them. To do that, the author must know the characters well. And if you build characters like that, you’ll end up liking them — even the bad guys.,

In this case, it is even made worse, because the author doesn’t like his protagonist. She’s an international television reporter. And now that I think of it practically his only female character. The author frequently refers to her feelings of guilt at having failed as a mother because she’s never home. Yet for this story, she and her son are on a search for her mother who disappeared years ago. They seem to be relating just fine. Her son has Aspergers, and she seems to know how to cope with that as They flee through India. She’s cold with her husband, is having an affair with her camera man whom she doesn’t treat very well, and then feels guilty about his death. She does stupid stuff. One of the men who is hiding her, brings her clean clothes. They’re way too big, and she’s horrified that this hot young man might think they’d fit. So she leaves the safe house and goes to the Indian street market to find something better. And has to be rescued. Please.

It was at that point I skipped to the end to see how it all came out and called it done.

This was a protagonist I should have been able to identify with. I should have liked her. But I couldn’t because the author wouldn’t let me.

Characters don’t have to be perfect people for us to like them. I just saw the movie Captain Phillips. The director makes us understand the Somali pirates and we come to sympathize with their plight, to pity them, and even to find at least two of the likeable. Or to take a classic — take Hannibal Lector, in Silence of the Lamb. Part of the horror for me is the like-ability of this mass murder. We don’t want to. The author doesn’t wimp out and make him have a soft side or a troubled childhood. But the author creates a character that likes himself, and that the author likes.

In the Sheikinah Legacy, the author despises his own protagonist. Hard to know if he doesn’t like reporters, women reporters, working women or women — but he should have chosen a protagonist that he could believe in — and therefore make us believe in.

This is Gary Lindbergh’s first book. He’s got a sequel out, which I won’t be buying, but perhaps he’ll come to appreciate the character he’s created. I could have liked her. I feel like it was a missed opportunity to have made a friend.