Friday, September 20, 2013

"Traveling with Spirits"

Valerie Miner is the award-winning author of fourteen books. Her new novel is Traveling with Spirits. Other novels include After Eden, Range of Light, A Walking Fire, Winter’s Edge, Blood Sisters, All Good Women, Movement: A Novel in Stories, and Murder in the English Department. Her short fiction books include Abundant Light, The Night Singers and Trespassing. Her collection of essays is Rumors from the Cauldron: Selected Essays, Reviews and Reportage.

Miner applied the Page 69 Test to Traveling with Spirits and reported the following:
Of course I was terrified to see what was actually on page 69, but I got a nice surprise because the page reveals some of the major themes and settings in the novel. This page highlights the developing friendship between Monica and Sudha, a major relationship in the novel. Sudha is one of those characters who walked in and took over. She became a large presence in the novel to my surprise and delight. I shouldn’t have been surprised; so many of my novels feature important friendships. This relationship starts out with an edge of hostility and grows into a deep, affectionate, bantering, intensely confiding companionship.

Page 69 also gives a sense of how they navigate the Indian Hill Station where they both live. I’m pleased there’s a short flashback to Minneapolis. I like the incongruous juxtaposition of places. One of the pleasures of writing Traveling with Spirits was the chance to return to India every day as I wrote and rewrote the book over ten years. I came to develop a new fondness for Minneapolis by seeing it through Monica’s eyes.
The merchant regards her cautiously. His eyes brighten as Sudha ad­dresses him.

Monica knows enough Hindi to eavesdrop.

“Of course, Ma’am, we’ll be able to carry your groceries up the mountain with the broom and cereal and such. No, no charge. How long has Ma’am been shopping here? How long educating our children? We are flattered by your custom.”

“Sri Chawla, you are too kind.”

The parking lot at Lunds in Uptown was filled with winter filthy cars. Customers trudged warily on the Minnesota ice, leading the way as young men and women in green uniforms pushed shopping carts toward capa­cious trunks of Subarus and Volvos and Hondas. How much more anony­mous that life seems now. How long ago and far away.

Before striking farther uphill to the Mall, they graze stalls of Lower Bazaar for pens, paper, bars of soap. Not too much because after the Mall, where Monica will buy newspapers and a candy bar in a fancy shop, they’ll have a steep climb to their neighborhood. Once past Mr. Chawla’s store, they’re accountable for haulage.

She’s happy Sudha lives so near. Her small apartment block, 500 yards away, makes walking back at night easy. Thus she gets minimum flack about this “dubious practice” from Paterfamilias Walsh. She must develop a less confrontational attitude toward him. Has he simply re­placed Louise as adversary in her psychological landscape?

No trip to town is complete without a stop at the Kerala Coffee House. They have a special table in the relatively smoke-free back room with a view of Lower Bazaar.

“Whew. This town does keep a person fit,” Sudha sighs as she re­leases her packages. “But then, being American, you’re probably used to attending the gym daily and torturing yourself on those monstrous machines.”

Monica laughs, thinking about her gawkiness in aerobics class, then feels a pang of homesickness for the low impact course, the locker room chats with Beata. “You’re right, this is a great workout. I’ve lost a couple of pounds since coming to Moorty.”

“A pound or two, it makes a difference?”
Learn more about the book and author at Valerie Miner's website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Valerie Miner.

My Book, The Movie: Traveling with Spirits.

--Marshal Zeringue