From the critically acclaimed author of Etched On Me comes a poignant, moving story of resilience and second chances.
After nine short but blissful years of marriage, American expat Gloria Burgess's world shatters when her British artist husband dies of leukemia. Estranged from her mother, utterly alone in her adopted home of London, she must now struggle to raise her young son on her own -- and fight the temptation to sink into the self-absorption of grief that once drove her father to suicide.
As she puts on a retrospective of her late husband's work, Gloria finds solace in the form of an empathetic friendship with a charming widower, and agrees to let her mother cross the Atlantic to stay with her for their first visit in a decade. The reunion could drive the wedge between them deeper ... or offer Gloria a priceless opportunity for regaining equilibrium and wholeness. Will she seize the opportunity, or turn her back on a new beginning?
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About the Author
Before the live bn.com chat, Jenn Crowell agreed to answer some of our questions:Q: What books have had the greatest impact on you?
A: Almost every book I've read has impacted me on some level, but the first one which really affected me as a writer was Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. I was 14 years old when I read it, and it absolutely blew me away -- not only because of its disturbing subject matter, but also its sheer emotional power and lyricism. It opened me up to the fictional possibilities of language for the first time, and I still dig it out and reread it once a year; I never cease to be moved, or to be frightened by its dead-on depiction of what will happen to female autonomy in America if current trends continue.
Q: We've heard that you had never been to England until this past summer, well after Necessary Madness was complete. What tools did you use to come to know the culture so well at a distance?
A: Every guidebook to London I could get my hands on, and every BBC sitcom I could find on public television! My research was truly a labor of love.... To this day I have all the "Absolutely Fabulous" episodes burned into my memory, and the sight of a dictionary of British English on a bookstore shelf still makes me dizzy with excitement.
Q: Have you picked up British customs like afternoon tea?
A: While high tea is a deliciously pompous sugar high everyone on the planet should experience at least once (preferably at a swanky hotel with only a modest lunch beforehand!), I can't say I could go for it each afternoon. I do adore Indian food, though...which, you could ostensibly argue, is a British craving in itself.
Q: You deal a lot with painters and paintings in the novel. What artists have influenced you?
A: With the exceptions of Munch and Dali, I more or less align myself with contemporary women artists (Guerrilla Girls, et al). One in particular, Hannah Wilke, inspired the passages in the novel detailing the husband's quest to "paint for his life." She was a controversial feminist photographer in the 1970s, and a few years ago was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She arranged a series a photographs to be taken of her during the brutal stages of her illness, which were displayed after her death. They were raw, almost unbearable to look at, and yet imbued with incredible dignity -- I saw her photographs for the first time in August 1994, and I've been in haunted awe of them ever since.
Q: What books do you give as gifts?
A: Why, my own, of course! Just kidding. The last book I gave as a gift was the collected short stories of Flannery O'Connor, to my best friend Heather (who adores "Flannery O") for her birthday. She's not what I would normally gravitate toward, but with Heather's help I'm learning to appreciate her...not exactly the Tori Amos brand of Southern perversity, but a dark, complex read all the same.