Saturday, July 1, 2017

"Before Everything"

Victoria Redel is the author of three books of poetry and five books of fiction.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Before Everything, and reported the following:
Before Everything is a novel where the narrative point of view shifts and keeps shifting because I wanted readers to feel how one character’s, Anna, choice to stop medical treatment impacts on the lives of those who love her. While most of the novel is seen through the perspective of five women friends who have known one another since childhood, Page 69 is interesting because we’re seeing through the eyes of Reuben the ex-but-still-married husband of Anna. Reuben is thinking about when he and Anna told their grown children that she’d decided to stop treatment and enter hospice. I love this scene because I truly love the character of Reuben. While much of the novel is about enduring friendship, Reuben is, in many ways, the quiet hero of the book: “He was the go-to guy. Conversations with Kate from hospice. Every two seconds family, friends checking in, ‘What’s the plan?’” The novel isn’t about idealized perfect relationships; it’s about how we manage (or don’t) complicated, messy, real relationships. Reuben reckons with how a marriage can fail but two people still are intertwined as parents and loyal partners of a deep shared history. In this scene, Reuben keeps that unified parental front: “Reuben looked right past the etch of panic on each their faces and said, “We all need to agree. This is mom’s choice.” As the scene unfolds, he admires Anna as she nimbly shifts away from any grim focus on her. “Okay enough. Each of you tell me something,” Anna insisted that Sunday after they’d all had a massive family cry. “Something good about your lives, your work. Let’s just have no more big feelings for a little bit.” I also like this scene on page 69 because even though it doesn’t shy away from the serious stuff of life there’s a good dose of humor. This was what I tried to balance throughout the novel. People in this book are intense, quirky, funny and devastating—for better or worse, aren’t all the people we love best?
Visit Victoria Redel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue