By Leslie Lindsay
Friendships grow stale, a marriage erodes, and a woman is in over her head in this domestic drama/women’s fiction, the third from the very talented Jessica Strawser.
FORGET YOU KNOW ME is about crackling life-long friendships, eroding marriages, precarious health, and the wobbly years of mothering young children. It examines the tumultuous evolving relationships between girlfriends, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, women and men/just friends, and even neighbors–maybe that single dad could be an object of your affection?
Strawser is definitely a talented writer and absolutely ‘gets’ the busy mom-life of raising two young children. She’s snappy and highly observant ala Jennifer Weiner meets Emily Giffin so if you like their work, I think you’ll find a nice cross-over appeal.
Molly and Liza have been best friends since childhood. But Molly gets married, settles down and raises her children in their hometown of Cincinnati while Liza remains single and leaves for Chicago, though she’s really not happy. Meanwhile, things are growing stale with Molly—mom to Grant, 5 and Nori, 3. Her relationship with husband, Daniel, is strained and well, she’s not feeling all that healthy these days, either.
There are plenty of secrets and stress and lies and how they all tie together in the tangled web of being at our best-–or not. FORGET YOU KNOW ME has an ongoing underlying theme of ‘getting in over your head.‘
“Strawser is a clear master of the craft, drawing together a plot that seems at once impossible and fully believable. The novel’s pulsing anxiety continues through the triple narration … The tapestry of story and character will lure book clubs and lovers of emotionally complex fiction.”
Told in multiple POVs, we get a glimpse of how all these relationships work. Or don’t. I enjoyed the small-town setting of the book and appreciate Strawser’s snappy dialogue and acute skills of observation.
Please join me in welcoming Jessica back to the author interview series.
Jessica, I am always so interested the seed of a book for an author—was it a situation, a character, a setting…what got your wheels turning?
Usually I write from a central question or a theme, but with this story, it was the opening scene—or, rather, the rapid-fire opening sequence of scenes—that came to me and would not let go.
I think it’s normal for people—women in particular—to grow apart from once-close girlfriends. Sometimes we meet because of circumstance—we’re in the same high school bio class, for example, or college roommates, neighbors—at the time it works, but then we just sort of grow apart once the stress of marriage, work, and kids come into the picture. Have you experienced this personally?
Well, I’ve reached a stage of (bracing myself to say this word…) midlife where I’ve observed a lot of once-close relationships growing apart, often in spite of the best efforts of all involved. Particularly if you have young children and if your closest friends are not in the same city or at the same life stage, as is true for the characters in FORGET YOU KNOW ME, those tend to take a backseat as we put our families first. It’s wonderful to get together with old friends and pick up right where we left off, but I sometimes feel a little sad afterward, because it punctuates that we aren’t in touch with each other’s day-to-day the way we once were, the way we might still wish to be.
I love the cover of FORGET YOU KNOW ME and find it reflects the intimacy of relationships and small-towns. Can you talk a little more about that—and the danger of being ‘too close?’ And also—that tiny little airport—like a blast from the past!
FORGET YOU KNOW ME isn’t exactly set in a small town, but in the suburbs of Cincinnati, where I live—though I took care with the location, featuring some outlying points that are meaningful to me, and thus become so to my characters. There’s a lot of forced intimacy, particularly between Molly and her neighbor—who is present (physically and emotionally) in ways that her husband is not—and between Liza, her brother and his pregnant wife, who end up taking her in. Tiny Lunken Airport, where Liza takes a job, really is like stepping back in time, and she meets some inescapably influential characters there. And the Cincinnati Nature Center pivotal to Molly’s story line thrives with a close-knit community of members, volunteers and visitors.
But there’s a darker, slightly more sinister aspect of ‘being in over your head’ for almost all of your characters in FORGET YOU KNOW ME—was this a theme you wanted to explore, or did it just sort of evolve?
I set out with this in mind. They’ve been in over their heads for a while, and what happens in that opening video chat is going to force everyone to face up to the things that have come between them—whether being honest with themselves as well as the people they love means finding a way to reverse course, or parting ways.
What do you think of when you find yourself avoiding the page? Is there something—or someone—who seems to ground you? Maybe that Nature Center that appears in the book?
I actually write at the Nature Center quite a bit; I love the library there and the freedom to walk the trails when my mind needs a breather. I’m bullheaded about forward momentum, so tend to write through frustration more than I avoid the page—but usually when I’m procrastinating it means there’s something I haven’t thought through enough, some plot points I haven’t connected yet that are holding me back. That’s when I often need to step back, take a macro rather than micro view of the story, and regroup.
What’s obsessing you these days? It doesn’t have to be literary.
My kitchen! Thanks to a random electrical storm, the overhead light fixture died the same day FORGET YOU KNOW ME came out, and it turns out replacing this particular fixture isn’t so simple. Naturally there were also some related upgrades we’d been putting off… But home improvement projects and book tours don’t mix!
For more information, to connect with the author, or to purchase a copy of FORGET YOU KNOW ME, please visit:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Strawser is the editor-at-large at Writer’s Digest, where she served as editorial director for nearly a decade and became known for her in-depth cover interviews with such luminaries as David Sedaris and Alice Walker. She’s the author of the book club favorites Almost Missed You, a Barnes & Noble Best New Fiction pick, and Not That I Could Tell, a Book of the Month selection now new in paperback. Her third novel, Forget You Know Me, released to raves in February 2019 (all from St. Martin’s Press).
Currently serving as the 2019 Writer-in-Residence at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Strawser has written for The New York Times Modern Love, Publishers Weekly and other fine venues, and lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two children. She tweets @jessicastrawser, enjoys connecting on Facebook, and speaks frequently at book clubs, libraries, writing conferences and events that are kind enough to invite her.
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You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:
- Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter
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[Cover and author image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press and used with permission]