I found it in the bargain bin at Job Lot, marked down to $2.99. I'd seen it before, first on the "staff recommends" shelf at my local Chain Bookstore, then, later, on its own bargain table, but at that point Carol was still fighting for her life and a book that's a series of letters written by a woman whose sister is quite possibly dying from leukemia wasn't really the way to go. This time around, though, with Carol's death not quite so fresh and the desire to get reading again nipping at my heels, I brought it home and read the whole thing, cover to cover, in one sitting.
This wasn't such a hard thing to do, really. It's not a very long book, and the format makes it a very easy read. Although the voyeur in me loves a good letter or diary format, it truly is the mark of an author taking a slightly easy way out. And the book smacks of semi-autobiography; the author is a producer/screenwriter, just like her protagonist, and a bit of further research provides the details that her sister, like her protagonist's sister, lost her battle with cancer. The first rule you learn in even the most basic of writers' workshops is "write what you know," which Ms. Robinson has obviously done. But someone read it and liked it enough that someone bigger than them read it, and pretty soon it was big enough that the quotes on the dust jacket include one from the book's Time Magazine review and a toss-off from Jay McInerney.
None of which should lead you to believe that I disliked the book. That isn't at all the case. I liked Olivia, the main character, and hoped she'd find a way to make her move, straighten out her love life, get a place of her own to store her one pair of Manolos. I hoped against the odds right along with her family that Madeline, the other Hunt Sister, would find a cure for her rare form of leukemia. I kept reading until the last page was turned, which, as someone who writes, I know is the hardest part.
No, my reason for sitting here at the desk, writing about this book as my first entry in forever at 11:45 p.m. on a Friday night, rather than sleeping next to my lightly snoring husband, really has nothing at all to do with the book or the author or my feelings about either.
The book is touted in numerous places as Robinson's "first novel." This is much the same as referring to Will as my "first child." As in, "Is he your first?" This implies the (perhaps not imminent enough to placate the asker) arrival of a second.
Quite frankly, I wonder if she has it in her. That her first book got published--that ANYONE'S first book gets published--is a minor miracle. To achieve any amount of success, to be noticed by much of anybody other than your own mother's book club, takes a second miracle. And yet, here I hold in my hand the first novel of a woman who managed to achieve both these elusive heights.
She was also a screenwriter and a Hollywood producer. The inside back cover sports a coy photo of her, smiling shyly away from the camera, and the phrase "whose film credits include the award-winning films Braveheart and Last Orders. Never mind that I've not ever heard of the second one. I certainly know who Mel Gibson is, and certainly have to believe that even when listed as an "associate producer" on a movie as big as Braveheart (thank you, IMDB, you have to have made a few, connections that might help you to get your manuscript onto the right desk.
Even with all that behind her, there is no elusive second novel.
It seems she had but one story in her and, now that it's out, she goes back into the sea of anonymous authors.
My book is getting longer, bit by bit, word by word. I work on it in fits and starts, when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars. Some day, I'll finish it. And maybe it will be of at least a bit of merit. And maybe, just maybe, I'll be lucky enough to get someone to read it. Maybe even someone who will pass it on to someone else. Maybe, dare I even think, I'll have the pleasure of having it be the featured selection of my mother's book club (though if you know anything about my mother and even the slightest bit about my book you know this is highly unlikely, as I, too, am writing what I know, and my mom has a huge chip on her shoulder where this particular thing I know is concerned).
But if all the right connections don't help you make it past the second novel hurdle...
Not that any of it makes an iota of difference if you haven't written the book in the first place, but still.
Mr. Murray, my 12th-grade Honors English teacher, once told me I had an amazing amount of talent and would go far in life, "perhaps as a writer." He followed that by saying that "talent, without diligence and discipline, will get you nowhere."
He never mentioned luck. I think that was an oversight on his part.
And at that I do believe I am rambling.