What I’m Reading Wednesday

5 Feb

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I was fortunate to receive an early copy of “The Obituary Writer” (to be released March 4) and chat with author Ann Hood. I was instantly intrigued by the cover and title because 1, it’s during my favorite era (1920s-ish) and 2, being a journalist I was curious about the character’s profession of an obit writer.

In her latest novel Ann weaves together two stories during two very different eras: the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 and the JFK inauguration in 1961. I was instantly hooked upon reading as I couldn’t wait to find the connection between the two women in each story. As I was reading one night my husband looked at the cover and said, “That sounds sad.” And it was sad. The novel is about grief and loss and heartache. By the end of the book I was so emotionally invested in the stories I was so sad to see it end.

When I checked out Ann’s blog I read about her own tragedy of losing a child and the connection with how “The Obituary Writer” came to fruition.

Here are a few questions I asked Ann about her latest novel:

Q: The Obituary Writer is centered around two historical events: the San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906 and the JFK inauguration in 1961. Can you share your own personal connection with the date April 18?

A: On April 18, 2002, my five year old daughter Grace died suddenly from a virulent form of strep. Several years later, on April 18, I opened the Writers Almanac online hoping there would be a poem or anecdote that might speak to me somehow. What I found was a long description of the big San Francisco earthquake, which happened that day in 1906. I started to think of the things large and small, universal and personal, that are “earthquakes” and I knew I would set a book then.

Q: Why did you decide to write about the two historical events?

A: To me, JFK’s era represented hope to many people — Camelot. It seemed a perfect juxtaposition for the despair of the earlier era.

Q: One of the main characters, Claire, was a TWA flight attendant as you also were. Did you include any of your own personal experiences with Claire’s character?

A: I didn’t. But I loved researching those early days before jet travel. And it suited my exploration of the roles of women over time.

Q: Claire has a fascination with Jackie Kennedy. Why did you decide to add this to the character?

A: Women did have that fascination. I remember my mother and her friends analyzing everything she did and wore.

Q: The Obituary Writer deals with quite a bit of loss and grief, something I read that you unfortunately know all too well. Did writing this story help you deal with your own personal grief and tragedy?

A: It doesn’t help really. But it hopefully speaks to people who have suffered loss, which is just about everyone.

Q: What is your next project?

A: A book of interconnected short stories called “Dear Mussolini,” that follows a family over 100 years.

Q: What are you currently reading?

A: “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walters.

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