All posts tagged: grief

Debut author Lauren North talks about her early inklings for THE PERFECT SON (hint: isolation), how her background in psychology helps with writing, the house that inspired Tess’s and more

By Leslie Lindsay  Grief and despair wrapped under the guise of a psychological thriller fraught with emotions, disbelief, and empathy.  When Tess Clarke wakes in a hospital room she knows three things: 1) She’s been stabbed 2) Her husband is dead 3) Her son is missing. But the rest of it is buried under the fog of Tess’s mind.  THE PERFECT SON (Berkley August 13) starts with Tess in the hospital and sort of works backward in time, allowing readers to piece together their own theories. I am so impressed that this is a debut for author Lauren North. A bit about the plot: After Tess’s husband, Mark dies suddenly in a tragic accident, a few months earlier, the only thing keeping her together is their son, Jamie. And now he’s missing. To save him, Tess must piece together what happened between Mark’s death and Jamie’s disappearance. Plus, there are some ‘shady’ characters with ulterior motives Tess must grapple with. The structure of the story is what I found especially compelling. There’s a bit of a countdown to Tess’s …

John McCarthy talks about the power of poetry, emotional response, the intuitive process of writing, the haunting landscape of the Midwest, an amazing reading list, and so much more in SCARED VIOLENT LIKE HORSES

By Leslie Lindsay  Gorgeously stark and stunning collection of prose poetry that is at once mysterious, raw, and evocative.  Selected by Victoria Chang (Pushcart Prize among many other accolades), as winner of the Jake Adam York Prize, John McCarthy’s SCARED VIOLENT LIKE HORSES is an examination of growing up–of masculinity–but there’s more. Buried beneath these complicated, yet tender words is a yearning. Maybe it’s to be seen, to be heard, for greater compassion. SCARED VIOLENT LIKE HORSES takes place in the Midwest–mostly Illinois–and this is something I completely ‘got.’ There’s a working-class grit, but also a sentimentality, a deep attention to detail, a nostalgia for simpler things. This work, I am guessing, is deeply personal about drunk fathers and unwell mothers, it’s about instability, and resilience, and isolation. And yet, it’s inspiring. I read SCARED VIOLET LIKE HORSES fairly quickly–a day or two–but it’s not meant to be rushed. I want to go back and savor the pages, fall into the folds of these glimmering metaphors, revel in the observations. This work deserves that. McCarthy’s tendency is storytelling–a narrative approach to …

Laura McHugh talks about her new, Pushcart-nominated novel, THE WOLF WANTS IN, her brother’s mysterious death, ‘genius Apothic Brew,’ living in river towns, & so much more

By Leslie Lindsay Set in a small, rural Blackwater Kansas, THE WOLF WANTS IN is stark, startling account of pain, sadness, and poverty. Sadie Keller is determined to discover how her brother died, even if no one else thinks it’s worth investigating. Her brother was married, worked an honest job, there’s no reason he’d just up and die. But the authorities are thinking he died of a heart attack Sadie doesn’t buy it. Plus, his wife, Crystle, is acting strange. Still, others grieve differently and this just may be Crystle’s way. With two previous, highly acclaimed novels, THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD and ARROWOOD, Laura McHugh dives back into her vein of (Spiegel & Grau, August 6 2019). The writing is atmospheric, gritty, and bleak. This is a dark read comprised of a moving study of poverty and rural back-woodsy towns, colorful, often substance-abusing characters with an undercurrent of pain, sadness, and loneliness. The writing is astute; McHugh is a careful observer, which is exactly a skill a good author must possess. The story and the writing is both raw and poetic.  Told in …

THE HEART KEEPER came to Alex Dahl ‘very insistently,’ about cell memory, organ donation, the lengths a grieving mother will go to reconnect; plus her experiences abroad and a fabulous reading list

By Leslie Lindsay Delightfully dark tale about two mothers and one little girl; about anger, grief, sadness, and more as the after-effects of organ donation.  THE HEART KEEPER (Berkley, July 16 2019) is a raw, gut-wrenching read from critically acclaimed thriller writer, Alex Dahl (THE BOY AT THE DOOR, 2018). This harrowingly, gritty read follows a grief-stricken mother who is desperately trying to seek a way to overcome the pain of losing her beloved only child, Amalie, who drowned. Alison becomes disturbingly fixated on a the life of a small girl who becomes the donor recipient of her daughter’s heart. She feels she can reconnect with her own daughter by becoming close to this little girl. On the surface, Alison is an affluent middle-aged mother (to step-son), Oliver, and appears to have it all together–gleaming luxury SUV and attractive husband, nice home. But she doesn’t have her daughter. She would do anything to get her back. We fall down a grim hole of mysterious interest and sinister intentions. Grief is a strange thing–it will cause even the most ‘typical’ person to come …

Debut author Martine Fournier-Watson talks about how our lives are magical, how it comes from within, her hopes and worries; how to query agents and so much more in THE DREAM PEDDLER

By Leslie Lindsay  Gorgeously and lyrically told debut from Martine Fournier Watson about desires and hopes, grief and love set against the backdrop of a small town in the early 1900s. How could I *not* pick up a book entitled, THE DREAM PEDDLER (Penguin, April 2019)? I love small towns and dreams…so this was exactly my kind of read. The premise here is that a traveling salesman comes to town with the promise of being able whip up a potion for you to have a very delightful dream, money back guarantee if you don’t. So would you purchase a dream potion? Maybe you’d like the chance to reconnect with a lost loved one, have some superpower, a passionate fantasy, or some other personal triumph. Robert Owens comes into a small farming town pulling a buggy of potions behind him on the very day a young boy, Ben, goes missing. Parents and townspeople search for the boy and Robert quietly sets up shop. Before long, townsfolk begin seeking out Mr. Owens to request a dream for …

What if a new father came home from the hospital with a newborn, but not a wife? That’s what happens in Pete Fromm’s gorgeous novel, A JOB YOU MOSTLY WON’T KNOW HOW TO DO about grief, love, second chances, and old homes

By Leslie Lindsay  Love, Loss, and oh gosh–an old house–a baby, and so much more in A JOB YOU MOSTLY WON’T KNOW HOW TO DO. I’m not sure why I haven’t heard of Pete Fromm before, but I am so glad I read A JOB YOU MOSTLY WON’T KNOW HOW TO DO (Counterpoint Press, May 7 2019). Pete’s a five-time winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award and it’s evident why: his writing is perceptive, big-hearted, authentic, and razor-sharp. This book hits on so many of my favorite things: renovating an old house, a baby, and gorgeous writing. Taz and Marnie are crazy in love. They are living in a fixer-upper with lots of dreams and countless projects. But Taz, a handyman/carpenter/cabinetmaker is a bit too overwhelmed with outside jobs to really give his heart to his own house. And then there’s a baby on the way–so he better get busy. Without going into too many plot details, A JOB YOU MOSTLY WON’T KNOW HOW TO DO is about throwing out the blueprint …

Does lightening strike twice? Sometimes. Here, Nancy Freund Bills talks about this, healing after loss, complicated grief, and so much more in her award-winning memoir, THE RED RIBBON

By Leslie Lindsay  Clear, incisive memoir about death, grief, and the power to survive, THE RED RIBBON is a tender and tragic exploration of one woman’s experience.  Memoir has such power to shape and inform and this is why it’s one of my very favorite genres. THE RED RIBBON opens with author Nancy Freund Bills’s experience growing up in Montana–the rolling hills, the great expanse of sky, and yet, those out-of-the-blue tragic storms that swept in from the west. And then, many years later, in 1994, Nancy, now a New Englander, is notified that her son, Teddy, and recently-separated husband, Geoff, are caught in a freak thunderstorm. They have both been hit by lightning, one survives. This staggering news shocks and makes its way throughout several newspapers, affecting locals and family alike. But THE RED RIBBON isn’t just about this horrific accident. It’s about navigating the effects of grief. It’s about family and culture, customs, and the past. Nancy not only loses her husband, but also her father, later her mother, and mother-in-law. She goes through a series of …

Erika Swyler talks about her stunning, introspective novel about fathers and daughters, space, time, the oddity–but intelligence–of Florida, plus her favorite planet in A LIGHT FROM OTHER STARS

By Leslie Lindsay  Shivers of wonder, a coming-of-age tale of science-fiction, that is at once introspective and speculative, LIGHT FROM OTHER STARS will transform and mesmerize. From the bestselling author of THE BOOK OF SPECULATION (2015), I was intrigued to dive into Erika Swyler’s second book, LIGHT FROM OTHER STARS (May 7 2019). Delightfully imaginative, and not quite like anything I’ve read before, this is the story of Nedda Pappas, her love of science, space, her father, and so much more. Set in dual-time periods, 1986 and some not-so-distant future, LIGHT FROM OTHER STARS is a literary slant on science fiction. Nedda is 11 years old in 1986, when the Challenger erupts and her beloved astronaut hero, Judy Resick becomes carbon, atoms, dust…she can barely go on. What happened to those astronauts? Are they still ‘out there,’ have they become light and energy and warmth? Nedda loves her father, a laid-off NASA scientist fiercely. But her father is struggling with his own demons, a secret he and Nedda’s mother chose to keep from Nedda. Nedda has a best friend, …

Susan Gloss talks about her love for art, how it intersects with life, grief, and loss, plus she introduces me to a new word, oh–and this gorgeous book, THE CURIOSITIES

By Leslie Lindsay  A tender exploration of love and loss, addiction and recovery, pain and healing, THE CURIOSITIES is about the fragile condition of the human soul and art.  Madison, Wisconsin is a mecca of artistic pursuits–with a ton of authors in residence, but in all honesty, I am not sure I’ve read a book *set* in Madison—but THE CURIOSITIES (Berkley, Feb 2019)–takes place right in the heart of the city. I loved this! Plus, I absolutely adore reading about art–it’s like two art forms in one, a double treat. Nell Parker has a PhD in art history. She lives in a cozy Craftsman bungalow with her attorney/professor husband, but she is devastated by a recent miscarriage. She’s grieving and having difficulty moving forward. Plus, she’s swimming in a mound of (secret) debt. As luck would have it, Nell finds herself accepting a position as the director of a nonprofit artist’s colony, established by the late Betsy Barrett, a patron of the modern arts. Nell isn’t sure she’s exactly cut out for the job, but she’s willing to give it …

Family Estrangement is very real and very hurtful. Harriet Brown talks about this, plus forgiveness and writing with an open heart in SHADOW DAUGHTER

By Leslie Lindsay  An interwoven tapestry of personal story and research, SHADOW DAUGHTER: A MEMOIR OF ESTRANGEMENT  sets out to uncover the guilt, trauma, rage, betrayal, and more when it comes to family estrangement.  Research shows that seven percent of all people are estranged from a parent or sibling. But what, exactly, does estrangement consist of? No contact whatsoever? A greeting card here and there? What if you just try to avoid that person? And what about the shame factor? What kind of person breaks ties with their family? And so it goes. Harriet Brown deftly interweaves her personal story of estrangement with her mother, along with anecdotes, plus research from clinicians and researchers, giving a broader definition of ‘estrangement.’ SHADOW DAUGHTER (DaCapo Press, November 2018) reads a bit academically–that is, it’s packed with much research–but don’t let that fool you. Brown is sympathetic, intelligent, and nurturing. She and her mother have gone in cycles of connection and estrangement nearly all of her life. On the day of her mother’s funeral, following a battle with cancer, Brown is …