Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"The Repeat Year"

Andrea Lochen earned her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. While there, she won a Hopwood Novel Award for a draft of The Repeat Year, her first novel. She currently lives in suburban Milwaukee with her husband and teaches Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha.

Lochen applied the Page 69 Test to The Repeat Year and reported the following:
This page captures an important turning point in the novel—when Olive realizes she isn’t the only one reliving the year; her mom’s friend, Sherry Witan is an experienced “repeater” and a possible mentor for her in this strange time travel. Sherry is a socially awkward, brutally blunt character (who was a ton of fun to write!), and instead of giving satisfying answers to Olive’s questions about how a repeat year works, she seems to raise even more questions.

In this section, Olive also starts to fathom the true potential she has to fix last year’s mistakes and rewrite history. Her thoughts immediately turn to her ex-boyfriend, Phil, the man she once thought she would marry. The two were torn apart last year after a serious betrayal, but Phil has no memory of these events. Can Olive save their relationship the second time around?
“For heaven’s sake,” Sherry said, but her voice was kind, motherly. She handed Olive a handkerchief that smelled of men’s cologne. “You’re doing all right. You’re handling this quite well, actually. My first January like this, I spent in bed. I didn’t shower, I didn’t dress, I barely ate. By the end of the month, I was getting out of bed, but only to bring back books from the library. I read books on Buddhism, Hinduism, existentialism. I read Hawking, McTaggart, Kant, Leibniz, the ancient Greeks. I read H.G. Wells’s goddamn Time Machine. And none of it helped. If anything, it made things worse, because I became confused, paralyzed, too scared to try anything. I went back to bed for another month, and I didn’t snap out of it until my husband started talking about Gene McGregor.”

Olive felt humbled. A part of her had always secretly admired the complete abandon with which some people could break down and wallow in their misfortune. Whenever Kerrigan broke up with a boyfriend, she called in sick to work and camped out on the couch for several days watching the Soap Network and eating canned pineapple. But Olive liked to be clean and eat regular meals and keep busy. Moving forward as though nothing had happened was her preferred method of coping.

The fact that it hadn’t occurred to her to look in a book for the answers made her feel dimwitted. She knew who Stephen Hawking was but couldn’t imagine wading through one of his scientific texts. The other names Sherry listed were only vaguely familiar to her.

But what struck her the most was that Sherry had assumed she was weeping out of exhaustion and frustration from the overwhelming prospect of reliving the year, which had blissfully, fleetingly left Olive’s mind for a moment. She had been crying for Phil: the way she had hurt him and her disappointment over how things had turned out for them.
Learn more about the book and author at Andrea Lochen's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Andrea Lochen.

--Marshal Zeringue