Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I haven't been sleeping well. Correction: I have been sleeping well until about four or five a.m. and then waking with a feeling that I can only describe as marrow-sucking. It's as though every little problem and big problem in my waking life take on the same epic proportions just before the need to find Kicky's leotard is on the same level as how we're going to pay for her to go to college seven years from now. I have no explanation for this sleep-killing anxiety, but I'm about done with it. I've been trying to use this time to write in my though solving the problems of my fictional world will somehow distract from those in my real world. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. I think it mostly feels like I'm running out of time. There are so many things I haven't gotten to yet, and time is like a fire tearing through a warehouse filled with newspapers. I feel like I'm running from it, the heat all around me and flames licking at my bare feet. So that's where my head is at. In case you were wondering.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Where You Are by J. H. Trumble: A Review

Where You AreWhere You Are by J.H. Trumble
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel alternates between the points of view of Robert, a high school student whose father is dying, and Robert's math teacher, Andrew, a 24 year old gay man who is recently divorced from his best friend and mother of his three year old daughter.

I found myself feeling tremendously sympathetic toward both characters as they navigate the murky waters of their relationship. Robert is searching desperately for the love his father never gave him, and Andrew is really still finding and defining who is as a gay man. (I did need to remind myself that Andrew is only 24, which made some of his behaviors -- which I would have found reprehensible in an older man -- understandable.)

It's a coming of age story (for both characters) as well as a story of forbidden love. The narrative suspense is just under the surface, but grows in intensity in the last fifty pages or so.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann: A Review

Let the Great World SpinLet the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 1/2 stars. If I were rating this novel exclusively on its prose, I would give it five stars. the language is hypnotic at times, evocative of the city whose stories it tells. However, I found myself frustrated a bit with some of the novel's larger elements.

The novel opens with a glimpse of the streets below as a tight-rope walker traverses a line stretched between the Twin Towers. It is 1974. The novel then offers chapters dedicated to a myriad of characters who all, in some way, had a connection to the city during this momentous event.

While I thought McCann did a marvelous job capturing the voices of each of these characters, I did not find myself connecting in any significant way with any of them. (As soon as I began to feel a connection with a character, another character was introduced.) I understand that this episodic set-up is likely designed to give us glimpses into many lives. If so, I think a collection of short stories would have been more satisfying.

As soon as the connections between the characters started to be made, I was simultaneously relieved and irritated. I was relieved, because suddenly there was structure where it seemed there was none. But I was irritated because some of these ties were simply too coincidental; it felt contrived. (I am thinking primarily of Gloria and Claire...and the judge and Tillie.)

McCann writes, "It had never occurred to me before but everything in New York is built upon another thing, nothing is entirely by itself, each thing as strange as the last, and connected." Here is the secret of this story...the metaphor that McCann is striving for...exemplified by the tightrope walker.

I wanted to love this book, but ultimately appreciated the author's efforts more than the story itself.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Next Best Thing

Last month, my friend, Judy Reeves, tagged me for The Next Best Thing project, in which writers answer the following questions about their latest projects, and then tag a few more writers who do the same, and so on.

Here you can see Judy's answers, and I have tagged my dear writer friends, Ilie Ruby, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, and Jillian Cantor who will answer the questions about their Next Best Things. Enjoy!  

What is the working title of your book?
The novel is called Bodies of Water, a title which was a gift from my friend, Miranda. I was struggling to come up with a title (as I always do), and she kindly offered me one of hers (which came from an essay she wrote). My first novel was titled Breathing Water. And while this is not a sequel by any stretch of the imagination, it does return to some of my old fictional haunts (Lake Gormlaith, Quimby, etc...) with cameos by some of the characters in Breathing Water (Gussy, Effie, Devin).  

Where did the idea come from for the book?
In the summer of 2011, Hurricane Irene devastated much of my home state of Vermont. The deluge carried away old barns, homes, and bridges. We had just left our summer camp on Newark Pond in the Northeast Kingdom where we spend every August, and were staying with family on our way home. Because I was driving, and because of the storm that was pummeling the entire east coast, our hosts graciously asked us to stay another night. And something about the storm, something about being trapped inside, hunkered down together for one more night, seemed to open all of us up, and, because I come from a family of storytellers, we started to share stories. But it was this story, this beautiful love story, that kept me awake all night long. As the rain and wind pounded against the windows, I could almost feel the ribbons in my fingers as I slowly began to unwrap this gift.  

What genre does your book fall under?
This novel is a love story, but it would fall under the literary fiction umbrella.  

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I have a Pinterest board where I collect images that both inspire and are inspired by the story. Here I pinned a number of photos of a very young Brigitte Bardot (pre-bombshell) as Eva. Sadly, the young Bardot is not available...and so if I had to pick a contemporary actress, I might pick Rachel Weisz. My narrator, Billie, I could see being played by Jessica Chastain.  

The men are harder.  I could see Liev Schrieber as Ted and Giovanni Rabisi as Frankie.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
 I'm terrible at this. And so I'm going to cheat and use a few sentences:  

Billie Valentine is eighty years old, living out her last days in a small southern California beach community, when she receives a call from her past. John Wilson, her best friend's son, wants to talk to her about his mother and a long ago tragedy that shattered his family. This call catapults Billie back in time, to relive a long ago affair and its aftermath. BODIES OF WATER is a story of friendship and forbidden love set against the backdrop of the early 1960s.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Some books are easy. Others are excruciating. This was one of the magical easy ones. I started it as a NaNoWriMo project on November 1st, and completed it at the end of December. Of course, there were many, many revisions made, but the first draft came quickly in a glorious rush.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 
This novel is absolutely fiction, but the seed of truth planted that stormy night, nurtured by all that wild rain, was where it began.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I don't want to give too much away about the book, but I will say that it is not what many readers will expect...but my hope is that it will both delight and devastate.