Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"Beach Plum Island"

Holly Robinson is a journalist, a celebrity ghost writer, and the author of The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter: A Memoir (Crown 2010), the self-published novel Sleeping Tigers (2011), and two novels published by NAL Penguin, The Wishing Hill (2013) and Beach Plum Island (April 2014). She holds a B.A. in biology from Clark University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Robinson lives on the North Shore of Massachusetts with her husband and their five children, where they are fixing up a 1700's Colonial one shingle at a time.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Beach Plum Island and reported the following:
If I were a stranger picking up Beach Plum Island and flipping it open to page 69, I wouldn't be able to resist going to the bottom of page 68, since the first line on page 69 is a sentence fragment. Starting there, I would know this much about the plot: the death of a father has caused a rift between two half sisters, and the older sister, Elaine, is writing an apology note to Gigi, her teenaged half sister, for something awful Elaine did at their father's funeral because Elaine was so drunk.

Page 69 demonstrates some of the book's emotional tension, and certainly shows us that Elaine is a snide, imperfect character. However, this particular passage doesn't spell out the central conflict in Beach Plum Island, which is sparked by the mysterious deathbed confession of a father to his daughters about a brother they never knew they had. It also doesn't reveal that the book is plotted like a tightly-paced mystery, with the sisters frantically searching for clues about the whereabouts of that missing brother.

Here's how page 69 starts (cheating by adding the last line of p. 68):
Entitled brat or not, Gigi couldn't find it easy, losing her father at fifteen.

Their father.

Elaine sighed and started over on a fresh sheet of paper.
Dear Katy and Gigi,

I am sorry for your loss. Dad was a powerful presence in all our lives. I know he was a good husband and father to you, and that you were close to him in ways I never was. I guess maybe that's why it hit me so hard when he died: I never really got to know him, and I will regret that forever.

I want to apologize for acting the way I did at the service. I would like to blame my atrocious behavior on the wine. (Here, Elaine barely refrained from adding, “Which could have been better, by the way.”) But I hold myself fully accountable for my outburst. You were trying to honor my father with the memorial service and I greatly appreciate the effort you made. You were generous to include us, and I thank you.

I hope things will get easier for you over time. I promise to behave more like an adult if our paths ever chance to cross in the future.

Sincerely yours,
Elaine Barrett
Then, before she could change her mind or spend any more time fretting, Elaine neatly folded the paper in thirds, slid it into a matching envelope, and put a stamp on it.
Learn more about the book and author at Holly Robinson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Wishing Hill.

--Marshal Zeringue