Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"The Sisters"

Nancy Jensen, who received an MFA in Writing from Vermont College, has published stories and essays in numerous literary journals, including The Louisville Review, Other Voices, and Northwest Review. She was awarded an Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, and teaches English at Eastern Kentucky University.

Jensen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Sisters, and reported the following:
My goal as a writer is to make every paragraph, every sentence, every word earn its keep—a goal I often fall short of, to be sure—so I couldn’t help but be intrigued by (and a little terrified of) “The Page 69 Test.” What if page 69 of my novel The Sisters was nothing but some bit of transitional business—essential, but largely irrelevant to the themes of the book? Or worse, what if page 69 turned out to be one of those pages at the end of a chapter with only two or three sentences sitting on it—a terrible failure, since that would mean not only that there wouldn’t be much to say but also that I had a chapter ending that didn’t snap closed, like chapters should.

But, lucky me! Page 69 of The Sisters turns out to be significant indeed, for at that point in the story, the character Mabel has made the crucial decision to help a stranger, 12 year old Daisy. Earlier in the chapter, Daisy’s father brings her to Mabel’s photographic studio to sit for a portrait, and Mabel is unnerved, believing she recognizes her younger self in Daisy—a girl forced endure sexual abuse in silence. More than 15 years before, Mabel escaped her abusive stepfather, but miscalculations, misunderstandings, and a message gone astray have separated her from her younger sister Bertie, whom she had vowed to protect. Now, Mabel is confronted with a choice: Does she ignore her nagging feelings and mind her own business, or does she take action? Either way, what if she’s wrong? What then? Can she live with the consequences? On page 69, Mabel is on her way to Daisy’s father’s house, ostensibly to keep a prearranged appointment to take a series of casual photos of Daisy, but her real motivation is to discover the truth—and not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Overcome with guilt for the ways she believes she failed Bertie, Mabel is now determined not to let a chance to help Daisy slip away—a sort of spiritual reparation for the unintentional damage she has done her sister.
Learn more about the book and author at Nancy Jensen's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Sisters.

Writers Read: Nancy Jensen.

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

--Marshal Zeringue