Today I’m participating in a mass blogging! WOW! Women on Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about family relationships. Why family relationships? We’re celebrating the release of Therese Walsh’s debut novel today. The Last Will of Moira Leahy (Random House, October 13, 2009) is about a mysterious journey that helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost they were teenagers. Visit the Muffin (on the 13th) to read what Therese has to say about family relationships and view the list of all my blogging buddies. And make sure you visit www.theresewalsh.com to find out more about the author.
I can’t wait to read Therese's novel. Mostly because my favorite books evoke haunting feelings, narratives in which characters unravel family secrets, where the present is woven inextricably from the past, where adversity is mirrored through generations of women. Novels don’t need happy endings or big fat bows, in fact, I prefer tragic family tales with unrequited or forbidden love stories and endings that satisfy but are never expected. Not only do I like to read about these themes, but also they inhabit my writing.
I grew up in a middle-class household with middle-class values, which translated to me as unremarkable. I often imagined I’d find out I was adopted or that my mother was descended from royalty, like the Russian duchess Anastasia. Or, perhaps my father had a Swiss bank account hidden away. But sadly, no, just four girls going to public school in a suburb of Washington, D.C.
We’re all so different, yet I connect with each one in a different way. My oldest sister is a book-a-holic and, while we don’t always share the same favorites, we have a few elements on which we’ll always agree: Anglophilia, nuns, and anything written by Adriana Trigiani or Maeve Binchy. While those two authors write very different books, they have some similar qualities: humor, charm, and family relationships. We also share an aversion to butter and mayonnaise (ick, she’d say) and both adore coffee and chocolate.
My next sister is a bit of a rebel, needs a GPS to navigate a city in which she’s lived all her life, but she never misses a birthday or anniversary, and thoughtfully sends me author readings from Politics and Prose. She makes the best pizza south of New York and would happily live in that big city to give them some competition.
My younger sister is a travel goddess, knows all the best hotels and restaurants in the United States. She tells it like it is (remind you of someone?) and has a caustic wit. Her house and kitchen are always open, and we delivered our only children the same year, ensuring we'd always have plenty of experiences to share.
For years we all agreed on one thing: we led a vanilla life. It wasn’t until later that we learned of a well-buried family secret, a great uncle who was found in his bathtub murdered, rumored to be by a business associate in the Jewish mafia. But since most of the people who might have known the story are either dead or unknown to me, and my mother’s memory is slipping fast, it’s not likely I’ll ever find out. (Truthfully, there are one or two people I could ask, but I’m a little afraid of the repercussions.)
This is the seed I used for my first manuscript, The Cemetery Garden, in which a woman learns her grandfather had mafia connections, affecting her mother irrevocably in a fate worthy of a Greek tragedy. My second manuscript has similar themes, a woman haunted by her grandmother's past in the Bodleian Library.
Where families dwell, secrets follow, and plenty of people to read about them. Here's hoping Therese has a spectacular debut.