by Ron Vitale
July 15 will be a bittersweet day for me as it marks the release of the last Harry Potter film. Being a fan from the first book, I look back and remember my girlfriend (now my wife), telling me about J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosopher’s Stone for you UK fans). I read the first book and couldn't wait to read the next.
Yet what has touched me so much about the Harry Potter series is not only the great storytelling and imagination clearly present in the books, but learning of J. K. Rowling’s struggle as a writer. When she was writing the first book, she had recently lost her mother to multiple sclerosis, was separated from her husband, struggling to be a single mom and clinically depressed. She has since admitted contemplating suicide at that time. Yet with all these challenges, she chose life and to write the Harry Potter series. She stuck to her craft and kept on trying even after the first book was rejected by 12 publishing houses. Today more than 450 million Harry Potter books have been sold around the globe. As a writer myself, she's given me hope.
Since 1997, I have read the Harry Potter books as a young man, as a husband, and read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when I became a father for the second time to my now 4 year-old daughter. Back in 2007 on the day of the release, I woke up early and rushed to the supermarket as my wife, son, 10 day-old daughter and I were headed to the beach later that morning. I had forgotten that the Amazon order would not arrive until after we left for our trip so I hoped to pick up a second copy of the book as a surprise for my wife. So at 6am, I walked into the grocery store and smiled seeing a stack of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows books on a table in the front of the store. I purchased one and rushed home to give it to my wife so that she could start reading it during our car ride.
When my turn came to read the book, I wondered: How would J. K. Rowling end the series? While reading, what touched me most is the scene in which Ron uses the sword of Gryffindor to destroy a Horcrux. With arm raised, Harry yells at him to stab the evil artifact, but instead Ron hears all his fears--how he's the least loved by his mother and how Hermione secretly wants to be with Harry. All his fears and doubts are poured out to him by the Horcrux, and in that moment of hesitation, Ron nearly falters. Yet when all seems most lost, he strikes with the sword, destroying the Horcux. How often have we feared that we're not good enough, that we cannot succeed and that we are weak and insignificant? Yet J. K. Rowling has Ron face his fears and overcome them.
The Harry Potter series is about Harry being the hero, the Chosen One, yet the message is deeper than that. Harry succeeds because of his friends. He needs them as much as they need him. Ron, Hermione and Harry form a perfect bond that enables them to work together with the rest of the wizard world to save the day. As much as Harry wants to carry his burden on his own, his friends remind him that he cannot do it alone.
So as I rushed through the last book, trying to get to the climactic battle between Voldemort and Harry, I wondered how would the series end? As cliché as it sounds, I wanted to see Harry live and get married as I hoped J. K. Rowling would take the opportunity to infuse hope into her readers, showing that evil can be defeated and happiness can be obtained. Now I will see those same scenes play out on the big screen and I cannot wait!
With all that J. K. Rowling has had to struggle through in her life, I'm glad to see her happy and her fans so loyal and supportive of her. And as for me, as I struggle and get up early to finish my latest novel, I think about J. K. Rowling and all that she’s been through and that gives me hope. Hope that if we believe in our dreams we can overcome the challenges and obstacles in our path. And hope that an imaginative story about a boy wizard and his friends has helped bring people together from all around the world.
It’s been an amazing adventure. Thank you, J. K. Rowling, for never giving up on your dream and sharing that with us. Thank you.