Mr. D gave it to me for my birthday this winter and I finally got around to reading it last week. And the Great Coincidence? The author, Lesley Kagan, came to town last week. High winds, sleeting rain, children's soccer games couldn't keep me from attending her talk.
I arrived to take a seat behind a book club obviously all there together (and may I commend their excellent taste) and a woman on the other end of the room who was wearing a really cute outfit and I wished I'd sat next to her.
Listening to Lesley Kagan is like when your favorite aunt comes to town and settles in at the kitchen table with her glass of iced tea and starts telling about her exotic and wonderful life for hours and hours.
Only Lesley (I think she'd let me call her that) spoke for an hour.
Her life story is fascinating and her beautiful, brilliant book was rejected by 133 agents before finding a publisher. She explained that 18,000 books are published every month which presents a Publicity Problem. Her first printing was 7,000 books but then Miraculous Things happened: BookSense and Doubleday Book Club featured her book. To date she has sold an astonishing 200,000 copies and Whistling in the Dark is on it's 11th or 12th printing.
She writes full-time, from 5-10:30 every morning (I'll mention that her kids are Out of the House) and she began writing memoirs. Dialogue is a breeze to her, she told our little group huddled in this library basement. She'd spent her whole life talking.
She read from Whistling in the Dark and then from Land of a Hundred Wonders (To Be Released July 29). To say this woman has narrative voice nailed is an understatement. Her new heroine, Gibby, is NQR, Not Quite Right. "Don't we all feel not Quite Right?" Lesley asked the group.
Uh-huh. (I love Lesley. Will pre-order her new book when I'm at Conkey's next Wednesday.)
Whistling is the story of 2 sisters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1958. They are abandoned and surviving in part by mooching off their neighborhood. A Bad Man molesting and murdering girls in their neighborhood, adding to the Dangerous Situation. Suspenseful like Dandelion Wine, true to the quirky voice of a 10 year old girl, full of delish details about characters and setting, I could not put this book down. I'm sure the first week of August I'll be saying the same thing about Land of a Hundred Wonders.
Then the talk was over and Lesley was headed to a book club member's house for a reception. I had to race across town to watch Mr. T play soccer while Mr. D watched Mr. B play tee ball (did you follow all that?). As I picked up my purse, I heard the librarian refer to the Very Hip Woman I'd noticed earlier. Jess Riley. Jess Riley? No. Freaking. Way.
Jess Riley who wrote Driving Sideways.
Two fabulous Wisconsin authors in the same room. And I had to leave.
Yet another reason for me to curse youth soccer.