Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"While I'm Falling"

Laura Moriarty is the author of The Center of Everything and The Rest of Her Life.

She applied the “Page 69 Test” and the “Page 99 Test” to her new novel, While I'm Falling, and reported the following:
My new book, While I'm Falling, follows a college-aged protagonist, Veronica, whose parents are in the middle of increasingly hostile divorce. Her mother seems to be suffering more, at least financially. In the beginning, Veronica does her best to stay neutral, focusing on her difficult coursework and a boyfriend who offers the stability she lost when her family fell apart. But when her mother shows up at her dorm needing help, Veronica is forced to consider the real causes and effects of the divorce, and to reconsider the choices she's making in her own life.

One of the early chapters follows Veronica's mother when she's living in her first post-divorce apartment. Page 69 falls in that chapter, so in some ways, p. 69 is not really representative of the whole book, because most of the book follows Veronica, and then Veronica's interactions with her mother and father. But p.69 does sum up her mother's situation and emotional state at the beginning of the book, and I think it's pretty indicative of the themes and topics of the book.

From page 69:

She wanted to lie down in the living room, and to do that, she needed a couch. But she didn't have one. She was forty-nine years old, and after the divorce, she'd been saddled with almost three decades' worth of family furniture and mementos and a Ping-Pong table and a bunch of other junk that was a chore to get rid of; and yet somehow, she didn't have a couch.

Dan, she imagined, had a couch. He'd moved into a furnished condo, leaving everything from their old life behind, like a crab scooting out of a shell. She had been left with the mess, the garage sales, the sorting, the throwing away. And in the middle of all this, the dog, moments after a seizure, had peed on one of the emerald green cushions of the living room sofa. Natalie had actually been a little pleased, the dog's infirmity providing her with an excuse to get rid of the sofa, which was symbolic, she'd decided, of her old life with Dan, which also seemed a little peed-upon, ready to be thrown away. It would be fun, she thought, and equally symbolic, to replace it with something new, something striped, maybe something contemporary, with a hide-a-bed for when on of the girls came to visit.

She'd tried. Sometimes, after work, instead of leaving the mall, she headed straight to the furniture sections of the big department stores, just to see what was out there. She'd sat on striped cushions and pressed her fingertips against cotton twill. She'd quickly gotten overwhelmed by the selection, and also the massiveness of the decision. In those first few months, she was still so raw, and so unsure of herself. After the divorce, such a big failure, she just didn't want to make a bad choice.

On p. 99, Veronica is having an argument/discussion with her father, which is something she hates, as he is much more verbally aggressive than she is. He's mad at her, perhaps justifiably, because she got into a car accident and didn't have her phone with her. In the book as a whole, Veronica's relationship with her mother is given more attention than her relationship with her father. But p. 99 is a good indicator in that the story does follow Veronica's changing relationship with her father. She gets some practice standing up to him, even when she's in the wrong. She's in the wrong for much of the book, in fact. I'm pretty drawn to protagonists who have to learn things the hard way.
Learn more about the book and author at Laura Moriarty's website.

--Marshal Zeringue