Friday, April 13, 2007


Susan Coll is the author of Rockville Pike,, and the new novel Acceptance, to which she applied the "page 69 test" and then reported the following:
Page 69 falls at the end of a chapter, and picks up a scene mid-dialogue. It’s not the ideal stand-alone page, but it does its bit to represent thematically. Acceptance is a social comedy about the college admissions process and this page involves an ugly conversation between two mothers. Nina makes a blatantly racist comment about Maya, one of the teenaged protagonists who is a sweet kid, a stand-out swimmer but an average student -- an anomaly in her over-achieving family. Nina suggests that Maya will get into any school to which she applies simply because of her ethnicity. Grace, who is meant to be the voice of reason in the novel, struggles to come up with an appropriate response. She’s outraged, but isn’t sure what good it will do to start a fight with her neighbor, particularly since their relations are already strained. I actually wrestled a bit with this very page -- originally Grace just sucked it up and decided not to respond, but my editor suggested she ought to have a bit more spine.

“I believe the Kaluantharanas are Hindu, actually, Grace replied, a much sharper response poised on the tip of her tongue. She was not a confrontational person, and her first instinct was to always keep the peace. Starting a fight with Nina would do little to change the world and would only make their interactions even more unpleasant. She wondered how she could have spent so many years with Nina without recognizing all this venom just beneath the surface. Or was it possible that Nina had not always been this way, and that like Lou, something inside was turning toxic as she headed into middle age.

“Oh, whatever,” said Nina. “I guess I have to confess that I don’t really know the difference. There’s just so many foreigners in this neighborhood. Like that guy who just moved in up the street, the one with the thing on his head.

“He’s a Sikh, Nina,” she replied. “He works for the IMF. Now she felt herself about to explode. “You really ought to listen to yourself -- you sound like a racist!”

She couldn’t believe she’d just said this. The remark felt uncharacteristically bold as well as incredibly stupid. Nina was a racist! She waited for Nina’s angry reply, but none was forthcoming. She’d forgotten Nina was a master of denial…
Visit Coll's website and her blog, and read an excerpt from Acceptance.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue