Wednesday, September 5, 2018

"I Will Never Leave You"

S. M. Thayer is a pseudonym for an award-winning fiction writer and McDowell Fellow whose work has appeared in numerous publications and received several Pushcart Prize nominations. A native of New York, Thayer lived for decades in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region before moving to rural Virginia and earning an MFA from Virginia Tech.

He applied the Page 69 Test to I Will Never Leave You, his debut novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 (as told from Tricia’s point of view):
“This is America. You can believe what you want to believe, but I do seriously good work,” Simpkins [the private investigator] says, and in the pride that glows on his cheeks, I sense my trust in him isn’t misplaced. He isn’t a stupid man. He’s worked for Mark Zuckerberg, a certified tech genius, so technical skills must be in his arsenal.

“Everyone’s got secrets,” I say. “Find hers however you can. I don’t care how you find them, but I need them. The more debauched and scandalous, the better.”
I Will Never Leave You is a psychological thriller/domestic suspense novel told from the point of view of three characters who suddenly realize they can not all be happy. James and Tricia have been married for ten years but are unable to conceive a child that they both desperately want. After Tricia reacts violently to the idea of surrogacy, James’s eye wanders. He begins seeing Laurel, a young waitress freshly out of college, with a half-formed idea that he can have a baby with her and yet somehow, through charm and good fortune, still maintain his seemingly happy marriage with Tricia. Needless to say, Tricia is not exactly happy with this situation. As she says, “I don’t begrudge James the baby. But it goes without saying that I begrudge him the mistress.”

For me, what makes the novel work is that each character is fundamentally selfish in an underhanded way, yet human enough to have moments of sublime generosity and noble aspirations. It's the conflict between selfishness and generosity that hooks each of these characters up and creates the novel's tension and narrative momentum.

Page 69, although only two paragraphs long, is actually fairly indicative of Tricia’s underhanded ways. She’s a banking heiress who believes that because of her wealth, James will ultimately remain indebted (or indentured?) to her for life. In the pages leading up to page 69, she’s engaged the services of private investigator to dig up dirt about Laurel that she can use to her advantage.
Visit S. M. Thayer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue