Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Everyone She Loved"

Sheila Curran is the author of Diana Lively is Falling Down.

She applied the “Page 69 Test” to her new novel, Everyone She Loved, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Everyone She Loved, a father is driving his two daughters home from school. It’s an ordinary scene in every way. The conversation bears the typical markers of normal family interaction: sibling rivalry, teenage angst, parental peacemaking. Readers opening here might think the father’s left his big boy pants at home. Why is he letting the teenager speak to him with such apparent disrespect?

Even when he gets to the point of reprimanding her, it’s so mild. What’s going on here?

“Listen, Dad?” Tessa asked, when they’d reached the front door. Suddenly she was filled with an urgent flash of panic, a need to keep her father and sister right where they were. “Can’t you just stay in town? June’s only gonna make a fool of herself at competition anyhow.”

Joey’s “Tessa!” had a strangled sound to it. June was still in the car, well out of earshot, but Tessa’s comment was still unacceptable. He shook his head. “Siobhan says she’s got a lot of talent.”

Tessa dropped her backpack in the front hall before turning back quietly to her father. She shook her head at him. “Dad, she is playing you.”

“She’s ten years old, Tessa.”

“Not June, Dad. Think! Like Mom used to say, whose bread’s getting buttered in this transaction?”

“I don’t want to hear another word—“ Joey whispered, fiercely protective of June’s confidence. He looked up to see Lucy trotting down the stairs, wiping her hands on the tail of her work shirt.

The numbers 6 and 9 are identical shapes, they are also opposites, upside down. And Tessa’s world, like that of every other person in this page, has had her life pulled out from under her. Nothing is as it seems.

Tessa – at first glance – is gorgeous, but she is also way too thin. She may seem critical of her sister, but the truth is that Tessa’s the protective one, seeking to spare June from being made fun of for being overweight at a dance competition where most of her peers will be slim and trim.

Both girls have used food as a means of coping with the grief of losing their mother nearly two years before. At this juncture, their father – still in mourning as well – is too aware of his daughters’ fragility to respond with anything but sympathy.

Another set of opposites mentioned in this page are also not whom they seem. Lucy – a voluptuous painter -- is Joey’s late wife’s best friend. She’s been helping raise the girls since their mother’s death. Lucy – who’s known the girls forever- is as unsettled and tentative as Joey, having lost her friend and watched the children she loves as her own suffer so deeply. On the other hand, Siobhan, the newcomer who Tessa believes is “playing” her father is a fitness expert trained in the treatment of eating disorders. She is brimming with the sort of certainty and simplistic answers that can only be found in a rather young, rather inexperienced person who’s never undergone the sudden shocking loss of someone she’s loved.

Our title, Everyone She Loved refers to the community who were most devastated by Penelope’s death: Joey. Her widower, the girls’ mother, and four of her dearest friends, each of whom must discover how to make things right, even when everything has been turned upside down.

And so this is a book, at heart, about switched identities, about making judgments before you’ve had the life experience to know that nothing is as simple as it looks, and finally, it’s about how even when we get turned upside down and don’t recognize what’s left of us, there’s a friend out there, at least one, who can recognize us for what we are, and help us find our way home again.
Read an excerpt from Everyone She Loved, and learn more about the book and author at Sheila Curran's website, blog, and Facebook page.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue