Wednesday, November 13, 2019

"Beside Herself"

Elizabeth LaBan lives in Philadelphia with her restaurant critic husband and two children. She is the author of The Restaurant Critic’s Wife, Not Perfect, and Pretty Little World, which she co-authored with Melissa DePino. She also wrote the young adult novel The Tragedy Paper, published by Knopf, which has been translated into eleven foreign languages, and The Grandparents Handbook, published by Quirk Books, which has been translated into seven foreign languages.

LaBan applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Beside Herself, and reported the following:
From page 69:
They found Joel sleeping peacefully on the couch under Ridley’s thin fleece, Despicable Me blanket. Perfect, thought Hannah.

“Shhhhh,” she said to the kids, putting her finger to her mouth. “Daddy still isn’t feeling well. That’s really why he slept down here. He didn’t want to bother me. So let’s let him sleep. Okay? Don’t wake him up.”

Hannah knew he had an important meeting this morning, at ten…she knew he wanted to impress the Minnesota office. She had the urge to yank the blanket away or, better yet, get a picture of him so the words Despicable Me were clear as day and send it out into the world on Facebook or Instagram. But she knew not doing anything, letting him sleep through the meeting, was the worst thing she could do, at least for now.
I am always amazed, when I take the Page 69 Test, how something truly telling about the book almost always lies right there on that page. This is a perfect excerpt to pull out of Beside Herself because it is really one of the lowest points between Hannah and Joel. I am not giving anything away when I tell you that Hannah has discovered that Joel had an affair and she is shocked, completely blindsided, she did not see it coming. This scene is the morning following the first night that Hannah tells Joel, reluctantly, that he should sleep downstairs on the couch. It also follows an early morning phone call from Hannah’s best friend Kim who has just recently gone through a devastating divorce. At the moment Kim’s kids are with her ex-husband in Orlando visiting Disneyworld for the first time. Kim calls Hannah in a panic because she just learned they visited Cinderella’s Castle without her. She tells Hannah that it is too late for her, but not for Hannah, and Hannah should do what she can to salvage her marriage and family. At that moment, Hannah is not at all sure she can or should. It is right after the phone call that she comes down to find Joel asleep under the Despicable Me blanket. That is fitting on many levels, not only because Joel behaved in a despicable manner, but also because when Kim describes the Cinderella Castle situation Hannah realizes they have long meant to go to Universal Orlando to see the Minion ride, based on characters in the Despicable Me movie, and in that way it is a symbol also of what Hannah has to lose, and really, what they all have to lose.
Visit Elizabeth LaBan's website.

Writers Read: Elizabeth LaBan.

--Marshal Zeringue