Sunday, December 2, 2018

"The Heirs"

Fran Hawthorne spent more than three decades as a reporter and editor (on staff at Fortune and BusinessWeek; as a regular contributor to The New York Times and many other publications), and as the author of award-winning nonfiction books, before finally returning to her childhood dream: writing fiction.

Her debut novel The Heirs was published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press in May 2018 and sold out its first printing within two months. It’s a story of second-generation Holocaust guilt among soccer families in suburban New Jersey in 1999.

Hawthorne applied the Page 69 Test to The Heirs and reported the following:
Here’s how page 69(which also happens to be the start of Chapter Ten) begins:
Chapter Ten

“Hi!” Ben’s dad was abruptly next to her on the grass by the soccer field. “I remember you from the second game. You wanted to know about that Polish kid Ted.”

“Yes. Tad.”

Adam was somewhere in the middle of the field but not playing goalie. So Mark had kept his promise; Adam was as safe as he could be, for now. The other team’s uniforms were gray and dark blue, which was way too similar to the Hornets’ white and royal blue. How would the players tell each other apart? That would be an interesting question to ask a coach. Especially a coach who was also an artist, who understood colors.

“Remember that stock I told you about?” – and now Ben’s dad slapped his palms together –“Drugtrials-dot-com. It’s the company that runs a database that tracks all the trials for new drugs in the U.S. It closed yesterday at twenty-six and one-eighth. That’s more than a dollar above when we talked.”

“Oh. Is that good, a dollar?”

“Good? It’s great! If you’d bought fifty shares, you’d have made more than fifty bucks. You can check for yourself. Do you know how to find the stock listings in the newspaper? Or on the Web?”

Eleanor simply needed this drug company’s particular abbreviation, which was DRTR. And then, any time she wanted, she could show DRTR’s latest ever-rising number in The New York Times to Nick and say triumphantly: “Remember that stock you didn’t want to buy?”
Page 69 is not one of the most dramatic pages in The Heirs. In one way, though, it’s typical: It takes place on the suburban New Jersey soccer field where most of the key characters frequently meet and subtly clash (while their kids’ team usually loses):

Eleanor, the protagonist, a high school French teacher and mom, whose mother has suddenly started talking Polish – after refusing for 50 years to discuss how she survived the Holocaust in Poland; whose husband, Nick, insists he must work 24/7 to prevent Y2K computer crashes; whose 9-year-old son is a team misfit because he messed up as goalie; and whose rebellious 12-year-old daughter wants to pierce her nose and does not want a bat mitzvah.

Mark, the sexy, divorced soccer coach and art teacher (enough said).

Janek and Maria Wysocki, a Polish-Catholic immigrant couple who Eleanor becomes increasingly obsessed with, as she imagines whether their parents crossed paths with Eleanor’s mother in Holocaust Poland – or worse.

Eleanor’s son, Adam.

The Wysockis’ son, Tad – who happens to be the team’s star striker.

And a more minor player, the pushy stockbroker known as Ben's dad, who’s trying to entice Eleanor to buy his favorite dotcom stock – despite the angry objections of Nick, her husband. (Yes, this is autumn 1999, and we readers know what will happen to that stock in March 2000.)
Visit Fran Hawthorne's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Heirs.

--Marshal Zeringue