Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"On the Road to Find Out"

Rachel Toor is currently associate professor of Creative Writing at the Inland Northwest Center for Writers in Spokane, the graduate writing program of Eastern Washington University. She lives with her dog, Helen, who raced in her first half marathon in February.

Toor applied the Page 69 Test to On the Road to Find Out, her first novel, and reported the following:
What I didn’t realize when I started working on this novel—about a girl who decides to take up running after being rejected from her first choice college—was that it would be so much about mother-daughter stuff. It had never been my intention to wade into those waters. And yet, I ended up having to put on my bathing suit.

The book opens with Alice’s first run ever, which is okay for seven and a half minutes. And then it all goes to hell. But somehow she manages to keep stuffing herself into her (tragically unhip) jeggings and borrowing her mom’s (too small) running shoes and getting her dejected, depressed butt out the door. By page 69, her shins are starting to feel a little sore and her BFF Jenni advises she take some time off. Alice is surprised to find that she doesn’t want to stop running. So Jenni suggests Alice ask her physician mother about the pain. Alice says she doesn’t want her mom to know that she’s been running because it will make her too happy. Her mom’s been telling Alice to get outside more, to make more friends, to try to find an extracurricular activity. On page 69 Jenni says, “Alice, sometimes you stand in your own way.” This, as it turns out, is precisely what the book is about.

Alice realizes she should tell her mom that she’s been running—but only because she needs to buy some real running clothes. On page 69 Alice reflects on the fact that especially after her college rejection, she has been a real jerk. She knows her mother is just trying to be helpful, but Alice feels like she’s been possessed by a little alien who makes her say assholic things to everyone around her and her mother gets the worst of it. The only one who’s spared the alien treatment is Walter, her beloved pet rat. And Jenni. Most of the time.

The book is about Alice coming to terms with what she sees as failure and finding ways to jump off the hamster wheel of achievement she’d been running on and learning to get lost and enjoy paths less well trod. It’s about a strong and independent young girl, the daughter of a strong and independent woman, who learns to be a little less self-absorbed and a little more understanding of the people around her.
Visit Rachel Toor's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue