Review: Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett

imageDB-2.cgiTruth & Beauty by Ann Patchett is the story of the author’s friendship with troubled fellow author and poet, the late Lucy Grealy.  

I read Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face last year and developed very strong, protective feelings for this brilliant girl/woman who was permanently disfigured by Ewing Sarcoma and the resultant treatment and surgeries.  When I heard that Bel Canto author Patchett had written about their friendship, I couldn’t wait to read more about Lucy, but then I quickly changed my mind when I discovered Lucy’s family’s reaction to the book.

The idea of the book lingered in the back of my mind, however, but because I didn’t want to betray Lucy, I refused to buy it.  Then it seemed like I was just being stubborn about it. Finally, on a trip to the bookstore, I happened to see it on a table and, wanting to be close to Lucy again, I took it home.  Part of me is glad I read it but another part wishes I’d left it alone.  The book made me appreciate Ann Patchett’s writing more (I wasn’t a fan) but it made me think less of Lucy.

Ann and Lucy attended Sarah Lawrence college at the same time but were not friends.  Ann knew who Lucy was (everyone did) but Lucy was only vaguely aware of Ann.  Then they were both accepted to the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop, where they were roommates and where their love for each other emerged and grew.

patchettgrealey‘Do you love me?  Do you love me best?  Am I your favorite?  Do you think I’m pretty?  Do you think I’m talented?  Will I ever have sex again?’  Lucy plagues Ann with these questions on a continuous basis over two decades.  Who would want to be friends with this clingy, needy, self absorbed woman?  I couldn’t find the Lucy I knew anywhere, the strong, brave, dazzling presence of Autobiography of a Face.  

Lucy had a brutal battle with the aftereffects of cancer.   Her disfigured jaw made speech difficult and swallowing nearly impossible.  She had 6 teeth in her mouth because she didn’t have a stable jaw to hold dental implants.  Her diet consisted of very soft foods and alcohol.  She loved to drink and party and socialize, but basic things like eating and talking were a constant struggle.  Her love life was complicated by her lack of self esteem and her distorted self image.  Her ever-increasing pile of medical bills seemed insurmountable, so she just didn’t open them.  Disorganized and irresponsible, she missed deadlines and frittered away writing workshops.  Chaos ruled.

Ann, the long suffering friend, the ant to Lucy’s grasshopper in that old fable, went to great financial, physical, and emotional lengths for Lucy, but it was hard to understand why.  The relationship seemed extremely one-sided, almost a parent/child dynamic, but with a peer.  What was Ann getting out of it?  Lucy would sit in Ann’s lap, demand her attention when Ann was speaking to others, whisper to her during dinners out, pout if Ann got too successful or earned a writing fellowship or received an award.  Then later there were lies and drug abuse to contend with, and while Ann occasionally lost patience with Lucy, she stuck by her to the end.  Why would anyone put up with Lucy’s crap, unless they had some kind of savior complex? 

But this book.  What does it say about Ann?  About Lucy?  I can’t shake the feeling that in writing this book, Ann wanted to get back at Lucy for the shabby way she treated her by baring her secrets to the world.  Is this admirable? Is this the way a true friend would behave?

And Lucy.  Can anyone be this one dimensional, this needy and self involved, and still have so many friends?  She was an absolute magnet for others and had dozens and dozens of friends, yet in this book I can’t see any redeeming qualities in her at all.

There is no doubt in my mind that Ann Patchett loved Lucy Grealy but I question her motivation for writing this book.  It feels like a payback of sorts.  It is not really a biography, an autobiography, or a memoir, because it doesn’t tell the story of either of their lives, only the shared bits, and only from one vantage point, so I’m not sure what to call it.  

If you’re going to read this book, read Autobiography of a Face as well.  At least you get a more fully realized image of Lucy Grealy that way.  If I had read Truth & Beauty first, I wouldn’t have wanted to read any more about Lucy, ever.  I’d recommend the two books together but I wouldn’t recommend reading this one on it’s own. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair or accurate by itself.  If you’re interested in either writer, I’d recommend it, although I’m not sure it has much worthwhile to say about friendship in general.  It is well written and I can appreciate Ann Patchett’s talent, but it’s hard to know what is true, and there’s not a lot here I’d call beautiful.

Suellen Grealy, sister of author Lucy Grealy, is Hijacked by Grief

A friend sent me this article after reading my review of Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. I had learned through an internet search that Lucy’s family was unhappy about the publication of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, but didn’t realize to what extent until reading this. I have Truth & Beauty on hold at my local library, but after reading this I’m not sure I want to read it. I’m one of the 3 people on the planet who intensely disliked her book, Bel Canto, so reading Truth and Beauty was something I wanted to do only as an attempt to know more about Lucy. Thanks, Valerie, for sending this article from the guardian.co.uk to me.

Hijacked by grief

Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy were close friends, both writers. Lucy died suddenly 18 months ago and Ann has since written an article and a book about her friend. What does such an intimate display of a loved one do to her family? Suellen Grealy, Lucy’s sister, describes her sorrow and anger.

* Suellen Grealy

* The Guardian,

* Saturday August 7 2004

* Article history

There was an enormously distasteful story in the press some time ago. A devout elderly Muslim woman had died, and her body, when removed from the morgue for burial, was found covered with slabs of bacon. I was shocked on two levels: that there are people living among us who would do such a thing; and that such people have access to places even those of us who are not religious invest with sacredness. What saddened me most was that her family would never be able to divorce their memories of her from that awful, indescribably insulting image. In trying to make a point, someone had entirely altered the course of their grief.

“Grief” is a powerful little word. Like “love”, it accepts everything. Like “Europe” or “America”, it describes a place where anything might happen. In the land of “grief” people tear out their hair, stay in their beds, starve themselves, put their faith in saints and psychics, give up on love. All is forgiven, on the understanding that eventually they will return.

That Muslim family were hijacked on their journey. Nothing so malicious has touched me, but I think of them often, for my own grief has been forced down an unexpected path.

My little sister Lucy Grealy died in New York on December 18 2002, at the age of 39. She had accidentally taken an overdose of heroin. Her life had been hard, but she had also experienced more joy than many. As a child, she was diagnosed with a cancer in the bone of her jaw. Treating it was physically agonising and hugely disfiguring. As an adult, she wrote about her life, to enormous literary acclaim, in a book called Autobiography Of A Face. Even when she was alive, I found it difficult to read. Her descriptions of my father, who died in 1979, were unbearably true. Finding him on those pages, singing or talking to our dogs, was like dreaming. A phrase about looking out the window above the kitchen sink of our childhood home in Spring Valley, New York, was like chancing upon a yellowing photograph of a place I had once loved. When she wrote about my mother, I felt I was standing outside the door, listening to conversations I had already heard.

There was also irritation, for much of the book was careless. It was the first time I had experienced reading about my family and parts of my own life, and I realised how easy it was for Lucy simply to select her vantage point. I learned, too, how easily readers would accept it as the only true vantage point. But I was happy for Lucy. The book’s success was a first-class ticket to a world she loved, in which doing what she thought she wanted – writing – earned money.

Well before the publication of Autobiography Of A Face, Lucy had become friends with another writer, Ann Patchett. Ann was hugely patient with Lucy, who could be infuriatingly disorganised and irresponsible. She was able, it seemed, to accept Lucy’s constant need of approbation and affection, even when Lucy herself ignored, and even scorned, those needs in others. Ann was a good friend. Lucy’s life became harder, with endless reconstructive surgeries, frustration at her inability to recreate the crystalline beauty of Autobiography, and a loneliness she attributed to being “ugly”. Ann supported her throughout, with company, money, food and love.

Ann was a far better “sister” to Lucy than I could ever have been, but we never met while Lucy was alive. I had moved to London while they were still at college together. There had always been thousands of miles between us, and she was simply one of the many friends Lucy made so easily. When a review copy of Ann’s book, Taft, arrived by courier at my house in London, Lucy, staying with me, didn’t bother to open it. I wasn’t surprised by the way she tossed it dismissively on to a chair, for she rarely showed interest, at least to me, in other people’s achievements. I felt sorry for Ann then, because I knew how much she had done for my sister.

As Lucy’s life became more and more confused, I called Ann in exasperation. I had no idea that heroin had become so huge in my sister’s life. I knew she was unreachably sad. Oddly, while Lucy and I had spent hundreds of hours discussing the failings of our confused childhood, we skated quickly over the thin ice that might expose us to a truth – that Lucy’s illness had affected us all. She often had great – and comforting – insight into my mother’s lifelong depression, but the understanding between us was that my mother brought the worst of it upon herself. We made such a harsh judgment of our mother’s desperation that Lucy might have felt – in front of me, at least – that she had forfeited the right to her own. Ann, unwittingly, colluded. “Lucy’s so much like her mother,” I said over the phone. “Don’t tell her that,” Ann replied.

At the funeral in New York, Ann read a beautiful piece she had written. Afterwards, I was consoled by my new, transatlantic email friendship with Ann. Six weeks later, she wanted an article about Lucy to appear in the New Yorker but in the end settled on New York magazine instead. Ann emailed a document for my signature, a family permission to use Lucy’s letters. I was surprised that it did not mention the New York magazine article, but referred to HarperCollins, her publisher. I wish now that I had sent it to Lucy’s agent in New York. But I was grieving, and innocent of the implications.

That was my mistake.

At about the same time, my sister Sarah – Lucy’s nonidentical twin – and I were trying to sort through Lucy’s papers in Connecticut, where she had stayed towards the end of her life. A family painting had disappeared from her room, along with many other belongings, and Sarah and I were sad about this. Friends of hers, not including Ann, had already been there. Sarah and I sorted through our own feelings at the time, confused as they were, and tried to convince ourselves that friends Lucy had loved were just as “entitled” to have her things as we were. I still believe that, even now. Lucy had loved that painting, however, and I was disturbed that someone would feel more entitled to such a connection with her past. I believed my nephews should have had it.

While I was staying with Sarah, HarperCollins wanted to reissue Autobiography Of A Face with an afterword by Ann. We had read the afterword, and it was beautiful, but Sarah had asked, “Where are we in this story?” We are everywhere, I told her, like the paper it is printed on, though no one knows this but us. HarperCollins seemed very keen to issue it quickly, and we agreed. We thought, how could we not? We were in no state of mind to imagine the implications.

I noticed that the reading Ann gave at Lucy’s funeral and the piece in New York magazine shared similar phrases. The magazine had used a photograph of Lucy on the cover, and for a week Sarah, working in Manhattan, had to walk past a huge wall of these covers by the newsagent in the lobby of her building. She rushed past each day not looking, forcing herself to believe that having her dead twin’s face staring out at her was a good thing, because people had loved her. I felt so sorry for Sarah then.

Then Ann began to write what was to become Truth & Beauty, about her friendship with my sister. At first I believed that this was as it should be. Ann is an artist, how else could she express her grief? This was the defence I used to friends in New York. They had been surprised by some of the personal detail in the New York magazine article; they asked, “But why is she doing this?”

Later, Ann was in England for the Oxford Literary Festival. I heard a Woman’s Hour interview that she did – as winner of the Orange Prize for Bel Canto – with Martha Kearney. They discussed Truth & Beauty, then in progress. Ann appeared to believe that after the success of Bel Canto, critics would judge her less harshly for a work of nonfiction.

Around that time, Publishers Weekly in the US noted Ann’s forthcoming work of nonfiction about Lucy, referring to her as the “heavily disfigured writer who killed herself”. I was alarmed. Had HarperCollins released such a coarse and incorrect press release? But my concerns were brushed aside. Apparently it was a misunderstanding. Then I was alerted to reading guides published for the posthumous reissue of Autobiography Of A Face, with Ann’s afterword. One of the questions for discussion concerned my mother’s parenting skills. I cried almost incessantly with frustration. It was put down to the work of an inexperienced intern.

Three months before Lucy died, my mother’s depression took on the symptoms of dementia. I felt I had lost her. She had not been well for years – a huge source of sadness to me. Despite the efforts of my sister Sarah and I to help her, she was becoming more frail, more sad, more alone. Our conversations became surreal. Each one sent me deeper into despair. I was grieving for her. I tried to come to terms with the fact that she would never, after all, have the capacity for happiness. When Lucy died, I was already suffocating with loss.

On the morning of the funeral, my mother sat in her wheelchair crying, as she often did, terrified by her own constant fears. Sarah and I hugged her, trying, as we have both done all our lives, to protect her from her overwhelming despair. We have never told her that Lucy is dead.

In the spring of 2003, Ann was working, writing and living in what she described to me as “the Lucy factory”. I thought this was offensive, but didn’t say. She mentioned film rights. I was living in frightening and unfamiliar territory. For whom was this suffocating grief I felt? For my mother? For Lucy? The sadness that Lucy’s many other friends wrote about addressed only a tiny fraction of the tragedy my family had experienced. I envied the precision of their grief. How easy to focus on just one chapter of the intertwined lives of my father, dead at 57 from pancreatitis; my eldest brother, a schizophrenic, dead following a car accident in Nevada; my little sister, dead; my mother, subject to the idle scrutiny of book clubs across America, invited by those reading guides to judge her worth as a parent.

I’d had a framed photograph of Lucy for many years, which I loved. The only word I can think of to describe it is honest. I had loved it while she was alive, for the texture of her skin, for the closeness of her teeth, for a quality of nearness that made me feel if I looked at it long enough, she would blink. Now I looked at it and thought, who is this person? A public person, with a “legacy”, with “work”, by which we felt obliged to do the right thing. But what was the right thing? My husband said he could gauge my mood by whether he found the photograph hanging on the wall or hidden behind the chest of drawers in the spare room.

I was incapacitated with confusion. I felt, without being able to express it, that it was somehow indecent to risk laying my family bare for the sake of Ann’s personal expression of grief. I was afraid that with the publication of her book, there might be more inexperienced interns, another set of unsavoury reading guides, another reason for people to ask, “But where was Lucy’s mother?”

I wished that Ann would not publish the book. I admired and had defended her need to write as an artist, but I hoped she would finish it off, for herself, and put it under the bed. I’d have preferred her to work with a smaller publisher, one with less of a publicity machine than HarperCollins. That she’d ask for no publicity. I wanted her to wait until my mother was dead.

She felt it was her right, even her obligation, to write the book, and that it had to be HarperCollins because that was her publisher.

One evening before that conversation, when Ann was in London, we had walked arm in arm after dinner towards Notting Hill Gate. I told her I believed that Lucy, dead and thus completely free of the worldly obstacles of vanity and rivalry, would want us to console each other. I knew that Lucy, stripped down to the essence of sister and daughter, would want us to be happy together. Ann disagreed – she felt that Lucy would still be jealous of our developing friendship. It was almost as if she was excited by the idea.

Ann and I have not been in touch for some time. She offered a sum in exchange for permission to use Lucy’s letters to her in Truth & Beauty. Sarah and my brother Nicholas felt it was fair, a contribution towards the burden of my mother’s care – she was living in sheltered accommodation paid for by Sarah and me. I told them to do what they felt was right.

My sister Lucy was a uniquely gifted writer. Ann, not so gifted, is lucky to be able to hitch her wagon to my sister’s star. I wish Lucy’s work had been left to stand on its own.

There is a memory, one of thousands, that I would like to keep of Lucy. She is walking with my mother and me in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, near where my mother lived for many years. It is a warm and humid early evening, and I am taking photographs of them in a graveyard, trying to be arty. Lucy is wearing shorts, my mother a white linen shirt. One picture is of Lucy’s back and my mother’s face. Another is of my mother’s back and Lucy’s face. The one picture that I can’t focus on quickly enough is when they both turn to look at me, laughing, their foreheads nearly touching.

Why is that memory so elusive? Because it is so precious? Because it is mine alone, one that I don’t have to share with the hundreds of thousands of total strangers who think they understand Lucy through Ann Patchett’s personal vantage point?

Truth & Beauty has enhanced Ann’s reputation as a writer, though many have questioned the speed with which she published it, and the validity of exposing Lucy’s frailties, not apparent in Autobiography Of A Face. I’m sorry I stood by as this happened.

My sister Sarah and I have been travelling too long in the land of grief, and we would like to come home, to prop our pictures on the mantelpiece and to get on with our lives. But there is the book: what can we do with a grief thief?

UPDATE: I did go on to read Truth & Beauty. My review is HERE.

Authors: They’re just like US! #3

The first question I posed to authors was, “What are you currently reading?”  (click HERE to read that post).  Next I asked, “What was the last book you gave up on, and why?” (click HERE to read that post).

This time I’d like to know…

Question #3- AUTHORS: WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS?

Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters:   Harper Lee, George EliotJane AustenF. Scott Fitzgerald, Leo Tolstoy, Barbara PymGraham Greene, Alice McDermottJane SmileyGraham SwiftErnest GainesAnn PatchettRichard Russo, Anne Tyler and Sue Miller. For starters. And Agatha Christie!

Jennie Shortridge , author of Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe:  Old and formative favorites: Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Walker, John Irving and Anne Tyler’s older books. 

Beth Fehlbaum, author of Courage in Patience:  Chris Crutcher, TK Kenyon, Sherman Alexie, Derek Armstrong, Mark Spragg, Karen Harrington,  Sarah Vowell, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, David Sedaris, Al Franken, Laurie Halse Anderson, Todd Strasser, Joyce McDonald, Anne Lamott. 

Linda Merlino, author of Belly of the Whale:  A varied spectrum of favorites, I would begin with new voices like those of fellow Kunati authors, Karen Harrington, Cheryl K Tardiff and Carole O’Dell, others are classics: Hemingway, Steinbeck, Eudora Welty and Fitzgerald and popular: Amy Tan and Stephen King to name two.

Megan Crane, author of Names My Sisters Call Me:  I don’t really have favorites, because how could I choose?  I’m currently obsessed with Richelle Mead, Marian Keyes (as ever), and Loretta Chase.  But that’s just this month!

Jasmin Rosenberg, author of How the Other Half Hamptons: I’m a huge fan of NY society writers – from Jay McInerney, to Tom Wolfe, to Candace Bushnell, to as far back as Herman Wouk (Marjorie Morningstar). 

Edward Hardy, author of Keeper and Kid:  It’s a really long list but here are a few: Amy Hempel, Flannery O’Connor, Denis Johnson, Grace Paley, Haruki Murakami, Alice Munro, Patrick O’Brian.

Alan Cheuse, author of To Catch the Lightning:  Contemporary? Dozens and dozens… 
Le Guin, Murakami, Doris Lessing, Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks, 
Richard Ford, Richard Bausch, James Houston, 
Ma Jian, Chinese writer in exile in London…and more…. 

 

Mathias Freese, author of Down to a Sunless Sea:  Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ, Saint Francis and Report to Greco, all astonishingly written. Canetti’s Crowds and Power. one of the great books of the 20th century and anything by Krishnamurti, to wit, The Flight of the Eagle, on awareness. 

Joshua Henkin, author of Matrimony:  F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Cheever, Richard Yates, Alice Munro, William Trevor, Lorrie Moore, Tobias Wolff.  But ask me on another day, and I could come up with seven others I like just as much. 

Susan Woodring  , author of Springtime on Mars:  I love John Irving, Richard Yates, Ann Hood, Charles Baxter, Ron Rash, and Andre Dubus, among others. 

Doreen Orion, author of Queen of the Road:   Elizabeth Gilbert (I loved EAT PRAY LOVE and call myself the Elizabeth Gilbert Anti-Christ because I had to be dragged kicking and screaming on our QUEEN OF THE ROAD trip). I also love Jane Hamilton (especially MAP OF THE WORLD), Bill Bryson, David Sedaris. 

Daniel Putkowski, author of An Island Away In Crime, James Ellroy but Matt Rees is new addition in the same category. Tawni O’Dell and Pete Hamill in contemporary fiction. Oldie but goodie in travel: H.V. Morton. The man lived large and wide long before the likes of Anthony Bourdain who is another great read in the same genre.

Do you share any favorite authors with any of these authors?  Next time we’ll talk about favorite childhood books.  Stay tuned!

Authors- They’re Just Like US! #2

The first question I posed to authors was “What are you currently reading?”.  I got a great response (click HERE to read that post).  I also wanted to know if authors ever abandoned books, the way I sometimes do if I just can’t get into it.  Turns out they do…

Question #2- AUTHORS:  WHAT WAS THE LAST BOOK YOU GAVE UP ON, AND WHY?

Beth Fehlbaum, author of Courage in Patience:  Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. Too painful.

Linda Merlino, author of Belly of the Whale:  The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls—Just couldn’t get through it…

Jennie Shortridge , author of Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe: People will hate me for saying this, but The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. I just couldn’t wade through that initial snow storm. I have so little time to read fiction (only when not writing or revising) so something has to grab me fast. I know it must be a wonderful book because people who read what I do love it. It’s just me.

Megan Crane, author of Names My Sisters Call Me:  I don’t give up on books.  I read to the bitter end, so that I can complain about them thoroughly.

Jasmin Rosenberg, author of How the Other Half Hamptons: I almost never “give up” on books – but removed “A Million Little Pieces” from my To Be Read pile once the authenticity was questioned.

Edward Hardy, author of Keeper and Kid: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I hadn’t tried it in a bunch of years but somehow I can never get past page 100. This time – same result.

Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters:   I know its sacrilege to say this, but Moby Dick. I just wasn’t that into the whale.

Alan Cheuse, author of To Catch the Lightning:  I give up on a lot of new books, 
sometimes for tactical reasons, as a reviewer, because as much 
as I’d like to, I can’t review all thrillers or science-fiction… 
I stop reading many realistic novels, when I find the subjects 
never growing out of their narrow tracks…

Mathias Freese, author of Down to a Sunless Sea:  I will not give the title lest I offend, but it is a book sent to me by a fellow author — simply unbearable, disconnected and does not grab me as a reader.

Joshua Henkin, author of Matrimony:  For the life of me, I can’t remember.  I tend to plow through till the end no matter what.  I’m not sure why.  Curiosity, probably.  The hope that there’s something in the book that I haven’t yet discovered.  But life’s too short–too many good books out there.  So I’m going to resolve to stop reading when I’m not inclined to read on.

Susan Woodring  , author of Springtime on Mars:  I had to read The Phantom Toll Booth by Norton Juster for a middle school class I’ll be teaching in the fall, and I absolutely hated it. It’s clever and all, but it just seems to be utterly without direction. Ugh. I have read all but the last chapter–I’ll have to finish it and drum up a bit of enthusiasm before I teach this class.

Doreen Orion, author of Queen of the Road:   Oh, dear. I’d really rather not answer that, as I’d hate to google my name someday and see that as someone else’s answer to this question!

Daniel Putkowski, author of An Island Away:  Last book I gave up on… I really can’t remember. I suffer through to the last word. Is this a character flaw?

Next time we’ll see which authors are the authors’ favorite authors.  Can you say AUTHORS 3 times fast???

Guest Post: Do Book Trailers Sell Books? by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Do Book Trailers Sell Books? by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

There’s been a lot of discussion about book trailers on this blog and elsewhere on the ‘Net, and the question is: Do book trailers sell books? As an author who has no access to knowing where book buyers come from or whether they bought because of a trailer, I am very interested in the answer to this question. 

Personally, some trailers have led to me buying a book. I bought Mothering Mother by Carol D. O’Dell based on her book trailer and info. The info drew me in, the trailer sold me. I’ve seen awesome trailers and some that are just not that well done. 

Derek Armstrong and Kam Wai Yu, of Persona Corp fame and now Kunati Books, were the original creators of the book trailer. That was years ago. Technology has changed and trailers have become more complex, more attractive to readers and far more acceptable. 

Book trailers vary in style. Some are text only with dramatic music. Those can definitely be appealing, since nothing else distracts the viewer. Other trailers are live video—and showcase actors. Unfortunately, many look like amateur videos and the acting can be…well, let’s say, uninspired. 

Recently I watched Dean Koontz’s Odd Passenger “webisodes” (or Internet movie chapters) on YouTube. It is basically four short book trailers that, combined, tell a creepy story. The acting won’t win any Academy Awards; however, it’s solid enough and the camera shots are professional enough that I was hooked. Reel me in, Odd! I’ve ordered the latest Odd book because of these webisodes. 

So now, I’ll be brave and share with you the book trailer that Kunati Books made for my latest novel…Whale Song. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment and tell me what you think. Does this video intrigue you, tease you, leave you wanting more? Does it make you want to order Whale Song? Have you ever bought a book because of the book trailer? Enquiring minds (mine!) wanna know. 

 

Buy Whale Song on Amazon.com.

 ~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song, The River, and Divine Intervention

http://www.whalesongbook.com

http://www.cherylktardif.com 

Kandide and The Secret of the Mists

Our book club has taken an odd turn–

This fall we will read Kandide and the Secret of the Mists, a book meant for 9-12 year old readers (let’s just say we are all a wee bit older than that).  It’s all faeries and magical worlds and enchanting adventure, not my usual interests!  But one of our members is a friend of Diane Zimmerman, the author, and she will be attending our meeting in person.  That’s a rare opportunity and one we did not want to pass up.  Ms. Zimmerman is also a professional magician at the Magic Castle in LA- pretty cool! Several of us (myself included) have children that fall into the 9-12 age range, so we’re going to ask them to read the book along with us and include them in our meeting.

The trailer is quite good!  Check it out:

 

 

Click HERE for a Promo Code to save 25% on Kandide!

Has your book club ever read something completely different like this?  If so, how did it go?  

Authors- They’re Just Like US! #1

One of the glossy magazines dedicated to celebrities (Us Weekly, I believe) has a regular feature showing famous people doing everyday things.  I like seeing rockstars picking up their drycleaning or box office sweethearts biting their nails.  I’m just a voyeur that way.  It’s interesting to see that in some ways they’re ordinary people, just like us. 

In writing this blog I’ve been able to correspond with authors, MY celebrities- MY rockstars, and I began to wonder about them.  Do they like the same books I like?  What do they recommend to their friends?  I don’t have the resources to hire the paparazzi to follow them around and peek into their bedrooms to see what’s on their nightstands, so I decided to pose the same 5 questions to a number of authors.  I got so many great responses that I’ve decided to tackle each question in a separate post.

Question #1- AUTHORS:  WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

Linda Merlino, author of Belly of the Whale:  Firehouse  by David Halberstam.

Jennie Shortridge , author of Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe: A rather odd juxtaposition of fiction and nonfiction:  The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach. 

Beth Fehlbaum, author of Courage in Patience:  When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Megan Crane, author of Names My Sisters Call Me:  Careless in Red by Elizabeth George.  It’s the latest Lynley mystery, and now that I know George will, in fact, kill off longterm characters, I know that no one is safe! 

Jasmin Rosenberg, author of How the Other Half Hamptons:  The Divorce Party” by Laura Dave, after devouring her debut novel “London is the Best City in America”

Edward Hardy, author of Keeper and Kid:  A Voyage Long and Strange  by Tony Horwitz. 

Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters:   Dirty Words, edited by Ellen Sussman, which contains so many pieces that are funny, surprisingly sweet, and undeniably sexy.  And The Divorce Party, by Laura Dave, which is an incredibly moving story of two women sorting out how to go forward with or without the men in their lives.

Alan Cheuse, author of To Catch the Lightning:  Lost in Uttar Pradesh: New and Selected Stories  by Evan Connell, an old master, and stories by new Irish writer Claire Keegan, a real prodigy (Keegan’s book is titled Walk the Blue Fields).

Mathias Freese, author of Down to a Sunless Sea:  I’m about to begin reading Montaigne’s essays, in part, because Eric Hoffer claimed he learned about writing essays from this master. 

Joshua Henkin, author of Matrimony:  Netherland by Joseph O’Neill.  A terrific novel. 

Susan Woodring  , author of Springtime on Mars:  An Invisible Sign of My Own  by Aimee Bender (I’m on a Bender kick.)

Doreen Orion, author of Queen of the Road:  I’m currently reading a novel by Marisa De Los Santos, LOVE WALKED IN.  The last bookstore I did one of my reading/signing/royal shticks at, A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, gives authors who do events a choice of any book in the store as a gift.  So, I asked what they particularly loved and this was it.  I started it on the plane back last night and I can see why. 

Don’t you just love knowing that Meg Clayton is reading Dirty Words, or that Doreen Orion is reading that Marisa de los Santos book you’ve been eyeing, or that Alan Cheuse is reading Walk the Blue Fields (which, by the way, has a stunning cover- I may have to get it just for that!)? 

Next time we’ll see what books authors couldn’t/didn’t finish reading, and why.  I’ve been known to abandon a book now and then, so I’m very curious to see what books authors let go of before the end.

So..what are YOU reading?  

The Sunday Salon

Wow, it’s been hot here in Southern California.  Our normal June Gloom is nowhere to be found.  

My daughter is going to summer camp tomorrow for 9 days.  Her bags are packed and she’s ready to go. It’s a Girl Scout camp 100 miles away from home, and she will be in the horse unit this year; grooming, feeding, and riding horses, and mucking out stalls (blech!), but she loves it all.  She’s most excited about trail riding, which she hasn’t done too much of in the past.  The camp had an Open House yesterday, so we all went up there to see it, even though the girls went to camp last year.  They wanted to show us what cabins they were in and tell us different things they did.  Plus this is my daughter’s first year in the horse area, so we wanted to see that.  I stuck this book into her duffle bag just in case she has any time to read.  It’s about a brave 10 year old girl, and I want her to be brave at camp!  I think she’ll like it.

I had lots of reading time on the way to the Open House and back.  I just finished Karen Harrington’s Janeology Friday (the review will be written soon!), and literally minutes after turning the last page, a package from Hyperion arrived on my doorstep with two new ARCs, House and Home by Kathleen McCleary and Sweetsmoke by David Fuller.  Even though I have a huge TBR pile, on our way out the door to the camp I grabbed House and Home.  There was some grumbling from The Red Tent and A Thousand Splendid Suns, who have been in the TBR stack for months, but House and Home had an appealing cover (the ARC has a completely different cover than the one shown here-blue with a box of wooden matches- and a picture of a house on the box) and the blurb on the back sounded really interesting.  And it was!  I read it straight through in one day.  It was terrific.  The author is a reporter and writer for HGTV, Good Housekeeping, and The New York Times. This is her first novel, and I was floored not only by the excellent writing, but how many parallels there were to my own life.  House and Home is set to be released July 1st, and I’ll write that review soon, too.  This is one I’ll be telling my friends about.

I started another book today while my kids swam in my mom’s pool.  For once it’s not an ARC or a book for review, but one that I’ve had sitting around awhile (since Christmas, actually).  Has anyone read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott?  It is subtitled “Some instructions on writing and life”.  Well, who doesn’t need that??  I’ve only made it through the introduction and the first two chapters, but I’m hooked.  Funny, smart, and unpredictable is the way I’d describe it so far.  It’s one I don’t want to fly through, but rather savor and think about.  The TBR stack (“pick me!  pick me!”) will just have to hush for awhile.

With one daughter at camp and the other one a little lonely and clingy, it will be an interesting week.  My younger one will miss her sister, even though she insists that she won’t, so I plan to keep her busy.  She’ll be attending Vacation Bible School in the mornings and swim lessons at the high school with her “friend who’s a boy” in the afternoons.  The less time she has to complain about boredom, the better!

Oh, just a reminder about my June giveaway:  Leave a comment HERE by June 30th to win a copy of Mrs. Lieutenant.

What are you reading this week?

Guest Post: Author Cheryl Kaye Tardif asks, “What’s Your Book Club Looking For?”

Canadian Author Cheryl Kaye Tardif wants to know-

What’s Your Book Club Looking For? 

As a suspense author, I’m often asked whether any of my books are suitable for book clubs, and I usually answer with: “Definitely! But which one depends on what your book club is looking for.” So what can I offer to a book club? Well, I hope to give you an exciting, suspenseful read with location settings that add to each novel. 

Divine Intervention:  For book clubs that enjoy the paranormal/supernatural world, crime fiction or just suspense in general, I recommend Divine Intervention. Set in various BC locations, it has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and it explores tough societal issues, like child abuse, the foster care system, and abortion. 

Fans of authors J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts), Kay Hooper and Iris Johansen, and TV’s CSI, Medium and Ghost Whisperer will enjoy Divine Intervention, a sizzling paranormal crime novel that sends a team of psychic agents on a manhunt for a deadly serial arsonist who is leaving behind a blazing trail of corpses.

The River:   If your book club prefers high adventure, suspense, intrigue and controversial issues then I recommend The River. Discussion topics range from Multiple Sclerosis to family dysfunction to stem cell research to nanotechnology to conspiracy within our governments.

 This thriller takes place in the wild Nahanni River area of Canada’s Northwest Territories and it explores biotechnology, nanotechnology, and the search for longevity and youth as a group of near strangers search for a man who had been presumed dead. The River asks a thought-provoking question: How far have we gone with our technology…until we’ve gone too far?

Whale Song:  For book clubs that enjoy character driven tales, like novels by Jodi Picoult or Alice Sebold, I recommend Whale Song, set on Vancouver Island and Vancouver. Touching on the sensitive issue of assisted death and drawing on wise native legends, Whale Song is a poignant story of family ties, love, tragedy, sacrifice and transformation that will change the way you view life…and death. And it is “my heart book.”

 Reviewers have called it “beautiful”, “thought-provoking”, and “emotional”. New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice calls Whale Song “a compelling story of love and family and the mysteries of the human heart…a beautiful, haunting novel.”

There is a discussion guide available for Whale Song that you can view online and/or download (PDF). Please feel free to copy it for your book club. There are no discussion guides yet for The River or Divine Intervention.

My novels have been used in many book clubs in Canada and the US. Whale Song has even been used for novel studies in schools (elementary to high school), and as recommended reading for a tutoring company, plus mandatory reading for women at a Georgia women’s shelter. I’ve had the honor of visiting book clubs in the Edmonton area and I have immensely enjoyed the interaction, questions and of course, the great munchies. Why does book club food always taste so darned good?

My goal as an author is to hopefully give you suspenseful stories and memorable characters that will become like old friends, ones you won’t want to forget any time soon and ones you’ll think of long after you’ve read the novel.  

Book clubs: Please let me know if you choose any of my novels for your book club. I have some goodies I’d like to send you. Happy reading! 

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

http://www.cherylktardif.com

http://www.whalesongbook.com 

Guest Post: The Power of Women Who Read by Jennie Shortridge

Last June our book club discussed Eating Heaven, and author Jennie Shortridge attended by speakerphone. This was the first time we’d had an author in attendance and we were really nervous. One thing I remember and laugh about now from our conversation with her is that we were so concerned about taking up too much of her time that we jumped in with our questions almost as soon as she picked up the phone, and she said something like- “Well, hold on a minute, what are you guys eating? And are you enjoying some wine?” I remember she asked to “meet” each of us and we all introduced ourselves separately. She was so warm and friendly, and funny, too! We were so impressed with her and her book.

So imagine how happy I was when we found each other in blog-land, and how delirious I became when she agreed to a guest post! Please enjoy Jennie’s thoughts on The Power of Women Who Read. Ooooo, I am feeling powerful already!

The Power of Women Who Read

by Jennie Shortridge

Because I’m a reader and a woman, I may be biased on this topic, but I’ve had the opportunity to meet many other wonderful reading women through authoring three novels and attending many, many book group gatherings to discuss them. It’s no surprise to anyone that the majority of readers and book group members are women, and it’s no surprise book publishers drool over the thought of putting out a book that is book-group worthy.

This is where our power comes in. We can read Oprah books and NY Times bestsellers, or any other books someone else tells us to; there is no shame in that. For the most part, they’re fine books, and bestsellers for a reason. Of course, there are other options. Author Josh Henkins blogged here recently and offered you a challenge: choose something for your group that half of you haven’t read. I wanted to jump up and down clapping my hands when I read that. Yes, please! There are so many wonderful books out in the world. Why read the same twelve everyone else is reading?

As an author who attends book groups, in person and on the phone, I’d like to make a little pitch for those books whose authors aren’t yet household names. We are friendly, and available! We have insider stories of the book world, and of course, how the book was conceived and written. Some of us are funny, some serious, some weird, maybe, but we all have one thing in common. We love books as much as you do, and will sit and talk with you about them as long as you’ll let us.

But here’s where the power part comes in. By choosing those books that don’t get all of the marketing money and media attention, you send a message to publishers: we love these books. We purchase these books. We support these authors. Keep publishing them, too, along with the bestsellers and sure things. Publishers will take note.

How do you find great books? Ask your friends, your sisters and co-workers what they’ve loved lately. Ask your local bookseller for something beyond the front of the store. What secret gem lies in wait back in the shelves? Look at the employee recommended lists in bookstores. Ask librarians. Ask other book groups. Ask your hairdresser. Look to older books you missed the first time around. A book does not become stale or moldy with age. It seasons, just like we do, oh women readers.

In that spirit, I have a few book suggestions that may not have crossed your radar.

Miss Alcott’s Email, by Kit Bakke. Yes, Kit is a friend here in Seattle, but I pick her book because it’s smart, wry, and delightfully subversive! Kit has the audacity to imagine that she finds a way to email back and forth with Louisa May Alcott, and in her wonderful prose, they discuss social movements, personal connections, writing and famous writers, and so much more.

Church of the Dog, by Kaya McLaren. Highly recommended by friends, I’m about to embark on this novel myself. For now, I’ll just tell you what a famous author says about it: “Church of the Dog is a radiant novel that honors the broken among us, tenderly healing with its love, humor, and understanding. Kaya McLaren is a deeply wonderful writer. From the opening scene of Mara in her grandmother’s garden, through the wrenching finale on the ranch, I was stunned by this book. It’s a classic on the spirituality of everyday life…”—Luanne Rice, New York Times bestselling author

Devils in the Sugar Shop, by Timothy Schaffert. LOADS of sexy fun mixed with utter poignancy as a group of offbeat Omaha women gather for a sex-toy party, ending up with more than they bargained for. Not for the prudish, as you may have guessed. I also love both of Timothy’s other books: The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God (I even blurbed it) and The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters.

Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Low-Life, by Sam Savage. This little book is the Ratatouille of the book world! It’s no cartoon, however, but the wonderful adventures and misadventures of a rat and his family inhabiting a Boston bookstore in the 1960s. Quirky, yes! Fun, yes! You’ll love it. I promise.

Chez Moi, by Agnes Desarthe and Adriana Hunter. French author Desarthe tells the story of Myriam, a middle-aged wife and mother who, with no prior experience, opens a restaurant in Paris. With few resources, she sleeps in the dining room and bathes in the kitchen sink, struggling to come to terms with her painful past. Her delectable cuisine begins to bring in customers and Myriam finds that she may get a second chance at life and love. Chez Moi is a charming story that will appeal to those who love Chocolat and Like Water for Chocolate.

-In that vein, Home Cooking: A Writer’s Life in the Kitchen, by the late, great Laurie Colwin. If you’ve somehow missed Laurie’s books, they’re all wonderful.

-And of course, I’d be delighted if you chose one of my novels. You can read more about them at www.jennieshortridge.com.

I could go on all day. Claim your power, oh reading women! Make your own choices about what you read, and help broaden the scope of wonderful reading out there in the world, not just for you and your group, but for the community of readers whose decisions you impact here.

Jennie Shortridge is a three-time bestselling novelist. Her most recent book is Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe, and her second novel, Eating Heaven, has become a favorite book club pick for hundreds of groups, even one in Taiwan! Learn more about Jennie and her books HERE.