I have always given in to "the willing suspension of disbelief" when attending the theatre, watching movies, or reading books, but sometimes, I find myself a step ahead of the author, figuring out the
surprise ending (The butler did it!) before he or she had planned. I also relish the pleasant discomfort of dramatic irony during a story told by a naive narrator, when I am at least one step ahead of the protagonist's self discovery. (The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time comes to mind.) Nevertheless, I love to be caught off-guard in the midst of a story.
This past week, I read Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife, reading almost without stopping, I was so caught up in the story. The title refers to an ad placed by one of the main characters of the novel, a wealthy Minnesota widower seeking to marry. Set in the early twentieth century, the story moves between the remote Minnesota town and Chicago and St. Louis. Both the man and his new wife were sympathetic characters, enough so that midway through the book, the author threw a curve ball I didn't see coming.
Meanwhile, I had just finished listening to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a story set at Auschwitz told in third person from the perspective of Bruno, the nine-year-old son of a German commandant and a complete innocent. In this story, I could see the events unfolding around this sweet, naive boy, but I couldn't do a thing to stop them as they played out to their inevitable end.
I thought both stories were tales well told. In neither case, would I have wanted to switch the reading experience. I relished the surprise in one; I grieved the expectations in the other. Both introduced me to characters I am glad to have met.