Thursday, October 13, 2016

"Vivian in Red"

Kristina Riggle lives and writes in West Michigan. Her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, was a Target “Breakout” pick and a “Great Lakes, Great Reads” selection by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. Her other novels have been honored by independent booksellers, including an IndieNext Notable designation for The Life You’ve Imagined.

Riggle applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Vivian In Red, and reported the following:
Set-up for scene: Milo Short, elderly Broadway producer, has had a stroke. His son and wife are at his bedside, and they think he’s asleep. His son, who is heading up the family business now, speaks first.
“We haven’t had a hit in too long, and this…” A pause. He’s probably waving his hand over me, this problem here, “ … is taking a bite out of the one solution I had in mind.”

The High Hat.”

“Yes, The High Hat. Book and show, and what the hell? Maybe even movie. Can you see it? I wonder if Leonardo DiCaprio can dance.”

“All our problems solved by a dancing DiCaprio? How convenient.”

“You joke, but it would probably do the trick.”

“You never talk like this in front of him.”

“He won’t listen anyway, is why. Anyway, I’m not talking in front of him. He’s out like a light here, and no wonder after his little adventure. Did you threaten him with a nursing home?”

“I mentioned it, yes, though I got no pleasure out of it. I’m not ready to parent your father. I do that enough with my parents.”

“Oh come on, you love being in charge of everything.”

“That’s not fair, and no, I don’t. Hardly. But it’s not like I have much choice.”

Their conversation devolves into bickering, and I’ve gone from a harmless, sleeping elderly stroke victim to something even more insubstantial. They don’t even concern themselves now with waking me.

Their argument breaks off quick, like a tape reel that’s snapped. I hear the quick clicking of a woman fleeing in pointy heels. I wait to hear Paul’s footsteps follow, but instead I hear him flop into one of those chairs by the fireplace, and he doesn’t move.

Go after her, I’d like to say. Make up, apologize even if you’re right, because so what? This little argument is worth so much to you? I’d say the same to her. Who cares who started it?

I care.

You again. Go away. Are you a dybbuk now? I’ve heard the stories.

Ha, a shiksa like me? I hardly think that’s allowed.

You’re nothing. You’re stroke damage in my brain.
Page 69 of Vivian in Red represents the novel well. We have elderly Milo, who has so much to say, but has been struck mysteriously mute, unable to recover his language even with therapy. We have the next generation, oblivious to the needs of their elders, and last, we have the enigmatic vision of Vivian, a woman from Milo’s past who appears only to him. To Milo, Vivian looks exactly like she did in 1934, though she should be 90 or dead.

This is where the tension arises in the novel: the intersection of Milo’s past with his present, complicated his inability to have a voice.

One important character who does not appear on this page is Eleanor, Milo’s granddaughter and the family misfit, who has reluctantly agreed to write a biography of her grandfather. Eleanor will begin to sense that there’s something about her grandfather’s past that’s connected to his inability to speak. This is not just because of the biography project, but also her innate introverted temperament. In a boisterous family of extroverts, Eleanor has learned the art of quiet observation. She’s able to read her grandfather, even without his voice, in a way that no one else can. This puts her in a unique position to uncover the secret behind Vivian, in red.
Learn more about the book and author at Kristina Riggle's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kristina Riggle & Lucky.

The Page 69 Test: Real Life & Liars.

The Page 69 Test: The Life You've Imagined.

The Page 69 Test: The Whole Golden World.

--Marshal Zeringue