For March’s book club, we’re discussing Abby Fabiaschi’s novel, I Liked My Life. It’s a beautiful examination of grief, marriage, parenting, mother-daughter relationships, and aging. I’m thrilled the author is able to join us for Q&A.
Q. The book is told from the perspective of Maddy, a middle-aged mother who, after an apparent suicide, must watch her family from beyond and try to help them heal. You so beautifully capture the nature of grief. I loved Maddy’s teenage daughter’s cynical approach to mourners: I’m thinking about lines like: “They’ll go home to their intact families, proud of their sensitivity in pretending Mother’s Day doesn’t exist.” or “Someone needs to publish a list of things not to say to people in mourning and start it with Time heals all wounds.” I know people who’ve felt this way, but it’s not often discussed. Did this view come from research? Personal experience?
Abby. Unfortunately, personal experience. Some of my life’s favorite people have passed away, leaving me to experience–firsthand–the lonely, vulnerable journey of mourning. Grief can bring people closer, but only when both sides respect that in any given moment the loss feels differently.
Q. Throughout the book, Maddy urges her daughter to “Practice love, compassion, and forgiveness.” Is this your world view?
Abby. I have come to believe that if you rise above the fog and haze of grief there is insight and clarity in life’s most antagonizing moments.
Anything gleaned is at the expense of whatever you lost—and it will never be worth it—so you have to learn to accept that injustice. The quotation above is a beautiful example of this: When I was 15, I lost a dear friend in a car accident. It’s been over 20 years now, and I remain extremely close with her parents. It was Lynne Sachse, Elizabeth’s mother, who taught me the importance of practicing love, compassion, and forgiveness. Her wisdom, which was shared at the cost of great loss, seeps into my thoughts, words, and actions daily.
Q. You work so many wonderful insights about parenting into your dialogue. I loved Maddy’s husband’s recollection that, “Whenever we were around parents who had black-and-white goals for their children, your mother felt sorry for the whole family—the parents because they’d be perpetually disappointed, and the kids because they’d always feel nothing was good enough. She believed there was nothing worse a parent could pass on to a child than guilt.” Did you set out to offer views on parenting in the book or was that a happy coincidence?
Abby. No. Honestly, I never imagined the book would be published. My intent in writing it was to unburden my loss onto unsuspecting characters. Rather selfish, now that I think of it. But I Liked My Life did turn out to be an exploration of motherhood and marriage as well as mourning, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. I suppose it makes sense I went there, given my current reality.
Q. This was your first published novel. What surprised you about the process of writing it?
Abby. That it sold and multiple houses wanted to buy it! Industry odds, what they are, it is surreal I Liked My Life found a place on store bookshelves. My background is in high tech sales, which sounds wholly unrelated, but the approach that supported my career also enabled this opportunity: It’s not rejection; it’s feedback.
Q. Can you share with us anything about your next book?
Abby. It’s not done, but I am madly in love with it. Anything Helps will come out late 2018 or early 2019. It questions what, if anything, an adoptive family owes to its biological parents. I’ll give you a hint: the father, mother, and child all disagree on the answer.
Thank you, Abby! If you’ve not read the book already, be sure to pick it up.
Our next book selection is Ellen Herrick’s The Forbidden Garden. If you liked her book, The Sparrow Sisters, you’ll love this one! Here’s a little preview of what it’s about:
At the nursery she runs with her sisters on the New England coast, Sorrel Sparrow has honed her rare gift for nurturing plants and flowers. Now that reputation, and a stroke of good timing, lands Sorrel an unexpected opportunity: reviving a long-dormant Shakespearean garden on an English country estate.
Arriving at Kirkwood Hall, ancestral home of Sir Graham Kirkwood and his wife Stella, Sorrel is shocked by the desolate state of the walled garden. Generations have tried—and failed—to bring it back to glory. Sorrel senses heartbreak and betrayal here, perhaps even enchantment. Intrigued by the house’s history—especially the haunting tapestries that grace its walls—and increasingly drawn to Stella’s enigmatic brother, Sorrel sets to work. And though she knows her true home is across the sea with her sisters, instinct tells her that the English garden’s destiny is entwined with her own, if she can only unravel its secrets…
The book is released on April 4th, and we’ll discuss it May 9th, so you have lots of time to enjoy this delightful book. Happy reading!