Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Wishing Hill

The Wishing Hill
Author: Holly Robinson
Publisher: NAL (Penguin)
Publication Date: July 2, 2013

Book Description Here:
What if everything you knew about your life was wrong?

Years ago, Juliet Clark gave up her life in California to follow the man she loved to Mexico and pursue her dream of being an artist. Now her marriage is over, and she’s alone, selling watercolors to tourists on the Puerto Vallarta boardwalk.

When her brother asks her to come home to wintery New England and care for their ailing mother, a flamboyant actress with a storied past, Juliet goes reluctantly. She and her self-absorbed mother have always clashed. Plus, nobody back home knows about her divorce—or the fact that she’s pregnant and her ex-husband is not the father.

Juliet intends to get her mother back on her feet and return to Mexico fast, but nothing goes as planned. Instead she meets a man who makes her question every choice and reawakens her spirit, even as she is being drawn into a long-running feud between her mother and a reclusive neighbor. Little does she know that these relationships hold the key to shocking secrets about her family and herself that have been hiding in plain sight.…

Idgie Says:
A good summer read for pool or beach-side. 

It’s easy to quickly become immersed in his story with Juliet and her brother being quite likable characters.  Their mother is a not so pleasant a character, but there’s a lot of layers in her past that start to peel so that in itself makes her fascinating. 

When Juliet's mother falls and breaks a hip at age 72, Juliet is begged by her brother to take a turn tending her so that he can see his own family more.    Since Juliet is newly divorced, pregnant by someone other than the ex-hubby and filled with guilt, she agrees. 

While alone in her mother’s house, she comes upon some interesting family secrets – all directly affecting Juliet. 

I started the novel and quickly found myself five chapters in.   Always a good sign.  An interesting family drama read. 


Holly Robinson

The Story Behind the Story

            One of the things I love about attending author events is that often the writers will talk about the story behind the story:  What inspired this author to write that particular novel?  

            No matter what genre it's in or how improbable a tale, every novel is a melting pot in which the writer mixes various ingredients she has on hand:  memories from her own childhood, a neighbor's gossip, a grandmother's history, an uncle's fetish, a friend's painful or hilarious memory.  Even a snippet of conversation overheard on a bus can provide fictional fodder—or even an entire plot line.

            Not long ago, for instance, I attended the book launch for Caroline Leavitt's emotional new novel, IS THIS TOMORROW.  Caroline talked about her own childhood as one of the only Jewish children growing up in a largely Catholic neighborhood.  She then read scenes from her novel to show how she had mined those life events and transformed them into dazzling fiction.  In another recent reading by Bill Roorbach, whose most recent book is LIFE AMONG GIANTS, Bill discussed how he'd based one of the characters on an ex-girlfriend, a dancer.  The relationship didn't work out the way he'd hoped, but he put all of those bottled-up emotions on the page.

            In my new novel, THE WISHING HILL, the kernel of the story originated with my grandmother and her sometimes prickly relationship with her younger sister.  Their mother left the family to run away with a much younger lover—a scandalous event back in the early 1900s, to be sure—leaving her husband in charge of five children.  

            My grandmother was the oldest girl and her own grandmother's favorite; she was plucked out of her father's care by her grandmother and given an education and pretty clothes to wear.  Her next-youngest sister, along with the other siblings, were left to fend for themselves and went to work at early ages.  

            Simple enough, and not that uncommon a history.  However, it was only much later, after both my grandmother and great aunt were in their seventies and I was in college, that I began to observe them more closely and saw that, though they loved each other deeply, there was always going to be a deep divide between the two of them because one sister was the chosen one and the other was not.

            This background story is slightly different in THE WISHING HILL, and it's only one part of the book, which is woven around family secrets and tangled relationships not only between sisters, but between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, lovers and friends.  But that family story and others like it have been key to my own emotional development as a writer, and helped hone my ability to put emotions like jealousy, tension, sorrow, fury, and love on the page.

            Whenever I read other people's novels, I often try to do a little research on the authors because it's fun playing detective and trying to find the stories behind the stories.  And whenever there's a family reunion, I'm the one asking the most questions.  

            There are stories everywhere, and my job as a writer is to hold my net out in the universe and hope to capture one that I can share with readers in a way that will make it shine.