Here’s my next 5 Spot novel! I wish it were out already–I’m really excited about this one, but I have to wait until September to see it in stores.
The following catalogue copy which will give you some sense of the story:
The beloved author of THE SMART ONE AND THE PRETTY ONE and KNITTING UNDER THE INFLUENCE returns with a new novel proving you CAN go home again—it just might not be pretty.
Rickie left home a long time ago-so how is it that at the age of twenty-five, she’s living with her parents again, and sleeping in the bedroom of her childhood home?
At least one thing has changed since high school: She now has a very sweet but frequently challenging son named Noah, who attends the same tony private LA school she herself attended. Rickie fit in fine when she was a student, but now her age and tattoos make her stand out from all the blond Stepford moms, who are desperate to know why someone so young-and so unmarried-has a kid in first grade.
Already on the defensive, Rickie goes into full mother-tigress mode when her small and unathletic son tells her that the gym teacher is out to get him. She storms the principal’s office, only to discover that Andrew Fulton, the coach, is no dumb jock. As her friendship with Andrew develops, Rickie finds herself questioning her assumptions-about motherhood, being a grown-up, and falling in love.
And, just for fun, I’m also throwing in the three ideas I came up with for talking about the book in front of the Jewish Book Council. I think they’ll give you a real sense of what feels special to me about this book. (There’s some repetition between them since I knew ultimately I’d just pick one for my “audition,” but they come to some of the same ideas from different angles.)
Idea #1. I have four kids, three of whom have fairly serious diagnoses: my oldest has autism, my second oldest has celiac disease and my third has Addison’s disease (the last two are autoimmune). So my experience as a mother has always been one of feeling different–it’s always been MY kid who’s been left out, or needed special food, or felt sick or whatever. I’ve learned a lot along the way–even co-wrote two books about autism–but you never get over that feeling that you and your kid don’t quite fit in with the rest of the world. I tried to capture that in this book. The mother had a baby at 19 so she’s much younger than the other first-grade moms and her son has celiac disease and may also be on the spectrum (it’s not stated, but he’s got some mild symptoms of it–actually her father may be on the spectrum too). So in the book I explored something that’s surprisingly and inexplicably universal: that feeling that you and your child are outsiders in a world where everyone else belongs.
Idea #2. Unlike most authors, I go back and forth between writing fiction and nonfiction. I love writing novels–I spent my entire childhood reading, practically buried myself in books–and the only career I ever wanted was to be a novelist. But life has a way of altering your plans, and after my oldest son was diagnosed with autism, I met an amazing clinician who one day asked me to co-write a book on autism with her. We’ve since written two books together–so far–and I can tell you more about behavioral interventions than you probably want to know. An unexpected side effect of this other career of mine is that this knowledge has snuck into my fiction: an earlier novel I wrote called KNITTING UNDER THE INFLUENCE had an entire storyline set in an autism clinic and even this current novel, IYLHYBHN, has two characters who–while never being identified or diagnosed with autism–are, in my opinion, on the mild side of the spectrum. The main character talks about how her son and her father both are similarly distant, similarly distracted, similarly unable to deal comfortably with simple social situations. So my unintended career as a non-fiction writer has really influenced my dream career as a novelist and I find it difficult to speak about one without referencing the other.
Idea #3 (and the one I ended up going with, with some minor changes). I’m about to send my oldest son off to college in the fall and I will of course sob and hug him because it will feel like he’s leaving forever. But looking around me these days, I’m beginning to wonder if this really is the first step toward permanent separation that I think it is. Everywhere I look, older children who appear to have left the nest are flying right back to it. In my novel, the daughter goes off to college thinking she’s basically on the road to independence–then has a baby at 19 and ends up living back with her parents, with no real plan to escape. Rickie–the character in my novel–relies on her mother, but in many ways resents her own reliance. I remember a Mommy and Me teacher once explaining that kids can’t separate “nicely”–they have to scream and cry and get angry at their mother to become independent, which is, of course, true of Rickie’s six-year-old son in the novel. But it’s also true for her. At the age of 25, she needs to separate. But separation is–as that brilliant teacher said–a dark and angry process, so in her quest to free herself, this young woman who has a child of her own, reverts in many ways to the unfair anger and resentment of a toddler. You CAN go home again–you’re just likely to pitch a fit if you do!