Review: April & Oliver


Manic Mommies Book Club Selection: January 2010

We will be discussing this book with the author on Jan 20.  Watch for details as we get closer to the date. 

From the author’s website: With a hunger for travel, I spent six months after graduation backpacking through Europe, India, and China. I watched a lunar eclipse from a storm-tossed boat on the East China Sea, and saw a gentle old leper quietly die on a street in Calcutta. From Beijing, I took the Trans-Siberian railroad through the Soviet Union and out through snow-laden Helsinki. Later, I spent two years in China and another in Argentina. Throughout this time, I kept journals and scribbled an occasional story. Several of my articles were published in New York Newsday and elsewhere through syndication. I wrote to explore things I didn’t understand. My questions drove me. 

Synopsis:The story of April and Oliver, two inseparable childhood friends whose existences again collide with the sudden death of April's younger brother

Type: Fiction, 336 pages, Hardcover

Quick Take: As I read this book I couldn’t wait to read the ending – I kept thinking, I’m not sure if the author means for us to hope April and Oliver get together or if their lives collide but continue separately.  I do not want to share the details but I can tell you that when I had about 30 pages left I put the book down and told my husband “I’m not ready for this one to be over”.  You will feel like you are reading someone’s story, it's quite sad and desperate in the beginning but the second half of the book is filled with hope and a future.  Read it, there is a lot to discuss.

Click here to listen to an interview with BlogTalkRadio

Author Q&A:

Tell us a little about yourself: The Nuts and Bolts Answer: I grew up on Long Island, but have lived many places within the United States and abroad. I am married with two children, and teach writing to middle school students. My work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Boston College Magazine, Cottonwood, Stylus Anthology, Newsday, and elsewhere through syndication. An excerpt of April & Oliver was published in Agni and subsequently nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I have a Masters in Education from SUNY Buffalo and an MFA in Fiction from Bennington College.

The Amorphous Answer: I enjoy noticing the way light from a window patiently traverses a room over the course of a day. Clouds capture my attention, as well as bird songs, swaying branches, and gusts of wind. My propensity to stop and notice makes me an oddball. At the same time, I live a life teeming with deadlines, appointments, and responsibilities. How do I manage? Not very well! Every day, life gives me ample opportunity to laugh at myself.

Do you write daily? When I am in the momentum of a project, I write daily.  I like being swept up by a story and surrendering to it. When I have that kind of relationship with a piece, hours pass like minutes. As a mother and teacher, however, I don’t often have hours at a time. Sometimes schoolwork and other responsibilities take over, in which case I write in snatches.

What was it like getting your first book published? It took time for me to hone my skills as a writer. At some point, I gave up on the idea of publishing and decided to focus on teaching. Nevertheless, I kept writing because it is what I do. I worked on April & Oliver on and off for years, periodically stuffing it in a drawer for long stretches. It was my good friend, novelist Sasha Troyan, who encouraged me to haul the manuscript out one more time. Having been away from it for so long, I reread the manuscript with a blend of satisfaction and horror. Because so much time had passed, and because I myself had changed, (the stretching effect of parenthood), I could clearly see what rang true and what did not. It was as if I was reading someone else’s manuscript, and knew precisely what to fix. When I was satisfied, I sent it to an agent, and promptly forgot about it. Six months later, the agent called, asking to represent it. Two days later, the book was sold. I feel very grateful for my good fortune.

What do you think of kindle? Electronic publishing makes particular sense for subject areas where content is constantly being updated, such as science textbooks. It can also help spare our kids’ spines, not to mention a tree or two. Personally, I do not enjoy reading novels electronically. I like the tactile experience of reading, dog-earing, underlining, and hearing the whisk of each page as I turn it. However, I think people should enjoy books in whatever format is easiest for them. Currently, I spend hours in the car driving my kids to school, travel soccer, etcetera, and have taken to listening to books on tape. Given the demands of my life at the moment, if I were not listening to audio books, I would not be doing much reading at all. Therefore, I think people should enjoy books in whatever format is most accessible to them, whether kindle, audio, or old fashioned paper.

What is one tip you can share with aspiring writers? At the Squaw Valley Writer’s Conference some years ago, I had the privilege of working with the late Ted Solotaroff. He said in a lecture that during his tenure as founder and editor of The New American Review, he saw many gifted writers come and go. The ones who went on to become accomplished authors were not necessarily those who showed the greatest natural talent, but those who simply did not give up. My main advice is to keep at it, and always trust your own deepest instincts.

What are you reading now? I recently finished Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. Presently, I am in the middle of a reread of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Next in the queue is Herzog by Saul Bellow. The last paragraph of The Road left me so astonished that I am still having dreams about it.

Name some of your all time favorite novels, excluding classics: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez; Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro; The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje; The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

4 comments

  1. I wasn't sure about this one at first but now I really want to read it. It has a beautiful cover, too!

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  2. I think I'm going to have to borrow this one from you!

    Lisa

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  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this interview. By the way, I just stumbled upon your blog, and I love it! I just signed on as a follower. ;-)

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  4. I should be able to call in for the MMBC next week…although I may just be listening in as I’m not sure I’ll have time to finish it before then! I am enjoying it though…

    Amy

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