Never Coming Back: Free Skype visits to your book club!

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 4.04.18 PMMy new novel Never Coming Back has been in the world just over a month now. I’m grateful to the readers and reviewers who have responded to it with such heart. If you are one of them, I’d be eternally grateful if you’d post a positive review on Amazon or Goodreads. Never Coming Back is on the Midwest Indies bestseller list and is also a featured Midwest Connections pick for December.

The novel has been described as “book club gold” – music to a writer’s ears. In honor of book clubs everywhere, I’m offering free Skype visits to any book club who chooses to read Never Coming Back. No matter your time zone or when you hold your meeting, I promise to show up! And I’ll answer any and all questions as best I can.  

Not only that, but I am hosting a giveaway along with a Skype visit to two book clubs. Each club will receive three signed copies of the novel in addition to a Skype visit. To enter the giveaway, like and share this post and your name will be added to the hat.

Some of my most treasured responses to the novel have come from readers’ personal emails, such as the reader who wrote, I wish I could elegantly express what this book meant to me, but at this point, the thoughts are still assembling themselves in my soul. I felt you were writing the book just for me. Silly, yes. But I felt it so profoundly that I may believe it when I’m old and doddering around. I wept for Tamar and Clara, for all of us who have unsaid important things, for all who want to ask the questions when we can get answers, even if we’re not ready.

What the critics are saying: 

A luminous novel.” (Kirkus)

“McGhee’s magnetic prose and her ability to pack a richly detailed story into a slim novel. Atmospheric and introspective, Never ComingBack will resonate with those who have lost a parent to illness or estrangement but still have questions they’d like to be answered.”Booklist

“McGhee has an almost musical ability to repeat the themes of her novel with enough variation to keep them fresh. Fierce, complicated characters appear to grow out of the severe Adirondack landscape, and McGhee swerves away from sentimentality in addressing the relentlessly changing relationship at the novel’s core.”Kirkus Reviews

“[A] poignant meditation on the relationship between a mother and daughter…this well-written story will appeal to a broad range of readers for its rich characterization, mothers and daughters will especially find Clara’s and Tamar’s story moving and memorable.”Publishers Weekly

“McGhee’s latest novel… tackles the complexities of a mother-daughter relationship and the unresolved conflicts that can have lasting effects on both women.”Library Journal

Never Coming Back is a deeply moving exploration of growing up and growing old, and the ties that bind parents and children – and the mysteries that sometimes keep us apart.”Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of The Sleepwalker, Midwives, and The Sandcastle Girls 

“When a parent is involved, the journey of a caregiver can take the mind back through all the bumps and beauties of a complicated relationship and the heart and soul into new and challenging territory. Alison McGhee captures this–all the nuances and conflicts–in her beautifully written novel. Much to praise here but it is the remarkable characterization of the mother, the indomitable Tamar, who McGhee paints with such feeling, that lingers for me. A wise, humane book and a very special novelist.”George Hodgman, New York Times bestselling author of Bettyville  

“Alison McGhee returns to the landscape of the Adirondacks in this beautifully devastating novel about the things that remain unspoken between parent and child. Never Coming Back is an exquisite book, brim-full with nostalgia, love, regret, humor, yearning–and unforgettable prose.”Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members

 * * *

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 4.04.18 PMNever Coming Back, my new novelwrote itself in a compulsive rush of words. Questions tumbled out across the pages, fierce questions that I have spent my own life asking myself. Why do we so often hide so much from the people closest to us? Why, much of the time, do we assume that there will always be more time? Why, for so many of us, is it only at the end of life that we spill our secrets, desperately seeking to close the distance between ourselves and the people we most love?

How well can we ever really know one another?

Faulkner’s famous, ferocious question was one of the guiding lights behind Never Coming Back, a book about the relationship between two people –Tamar Winter and her daughter Clara– who, despite their profound love for each other, have never been able to talk about the secrets they hold in their hearts. But now Tamar has early-onset Alzheimer’s, and time is running out. Tamar and Clara struggle and stumble toward reconciliation, resolution, and clarity. They try, and try, and try again. Like most of us.

Never Coming Back(story) #1

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 4.04.18 PMHow well can we ever really know one another?

Faulkner’s famous, ferocious question has been with me throughout my life. It was one of the guiding lights behind my new novel Never Coming Back (out on October 10), a book about the relationship between two people –Tamar Winter and her daughter Clara– who, despite their profound love for each other, have never been able to talk about the secrets they hold in their hearts. But now Tamar has early-onset Alzheimer’s, and time is running out.

Never Coming Back wrote itself in a compulsive rush. Questions tumbled out across the pages, fierce questions that I have spent my own life asking myself. Why do we so often hide so much from the people closest to us? Why, much of the time, do we assume that there will always be more time? Why, for so many of us, is it only at the end of life that we spill our secrets, desperately seeking to close the distance between ourselves and the people we most love?

As I wrote the book I made a silent vow, not for the first time in my life, to talk, truly talk, with the people closest to me. To make sure they know how much I love them. That feels easy. But what about the regrets I have? What about the things I wish I’d done or could undo in my life? What about the conversations I didn’t have when I still had the chance, when some of the people now gone from the earth, people I loved with all my heart, were still alive?

These questions were troubling through me again a few days ago while hiking. You can’t go back in time, Alison, was the answer that kept coming to me, the same answer that has always come to me. Because it’s true, right? You can’t.

Then another thought came floating in, which was that I can do anything I want if I disregard the time-space continuum. I can talk to my lost loved ones as if they were still alive. I can go back in time, even if only in my own mind, and re-do conversations and actions the way I wish I had the first time.

In Never Coming Back, Tamar and her daughter Clara know that time is not on their side. They struggle and stumble toward reconciliation, resolution, and clarity. As I wrote the book I struggled and stumbled along with them. I watched from the sidelines as they tried and tried again. I love these two women as if they have been part of my life since birth. Maybe they have.

Reviews so far have been good. 

“[A] quietly powerful novel….fans will appreciate McGhee’s magnetic prose and her ability to pack a richly detailed story into a slim novel. Atmospheric and introspective.”—Booklist

“A luminous novel….the author’s gift for subtly poetic language and her believable dialogue make Clara’s journey worth following. McGhee has an almost musical ability to repeat the themes of her novel with enough variation to keep them fresh. Fierce, complicated characters appear to grow out of the severe Adirondack landscape, and McGhee swerves away from sentimentality in addressing the relentlessly changing relationship at the novel’s core.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[A] poignant meditation on the relationship between a mother and daughter….Though this well-written story will appeal to a broad range of readers for its rich characterization, mothers and daughters will especially find Clara’s and Tamar’s story moving and memorable.”—Publishers Weekly

Never Coming Back is a deeply moving exploration of growing up and growing old, and the ties that bind parents and children – and the mysteries that sometimes keep us apart.”—Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of The Sleepwalker, Midwives, and The Sandcastle Girls

“A wise, humane book and a very special novelist.”—George Hodgman, New York Times bestselling author of Bettyville

“Alison McGhee returns to the landscape of the Adirondacks in this beautifully devastating novel about the things that remain unspoken between parent and child. Never Coming Back is an exquisite book, brim-full with nostalgia, love, regret, humor, yearning–and unforgettable prose.”—Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members

Now that the old man is gone, she thinks about him much of the time.

12_slides_0541There are several stop signs in the tiny foothills-of-the-Adirondack-Mountains town (Welcome to the Hamlet of Holland Patent, pop. 300 – don’t you love the word “hamlet”?), but no stop light. Take Route 365 on  your way north or south or east or west and you’ll drive right through it.

You probably won’t stop unless you need gas or unless you’re hungry – there’s one small restaurant, where the portions are upstate New York large, which is something that I personally appreciate.

Small expensive portions that look like pretty little sculptures on a large plate make me  anxious and tense. They make me worry, wondering if I’ll have enough food. Having enough food is important to me. Will I have to ask for another basket of bread and extra butter, just so that I can leave the table full?

I’ll take a diner anytime.

If you’re eleven years old, and walking from the middle school to your 4-H club meeting, held at the Fire Hall – which is a big barnlike place housing the volunteer fire department, a meeting room and an industrial-size kitchen – you can take a shortcut behind a few houses and come upon the Fire Hall the back way.

Wait until the bell rings for the last class of that middle school day. Gather up your books – this is before the days of backpacks or book bags, and long after the days of straps that held them all together – and clutch them to your chest.

What are you wearing? A smocked blue dress. Keds.

Your books are clutched to your chest and you walk the three blocks from school to the Fire Hall to your meeting, which begins right after school, after all the girls gather. You don’t much like 4-H. You don’t much like clubs of any kind, nor will you ever, as it turns out, but you go to 4-H because that’s what you do, and your parents haven’t yet given you permission to quit.

It’s fall. Back then you loved fall because winter didn’t yet fill you with such dread. The maples are on fire and their leaves crunch under your Keds. You are walking alone under a September blue sky, that late September almost-slate blue.

There is no color like it in all the world. There are no leaves like these on-fire leaves in all the world. These books that you hold to your chest are the only books you will ever need, and this day is the one day, and that sky is without end, without boundaries to hold you in.

Your heart begins to beat outside your body, in rhythm with a bigger beat, a beat so big that it’s far beyond you. You can only be filled with it, and with each step – behind the white house, through the alley, there it is, there’s the Fire Hall – you grow more powerful.

This is my life, you think, there is no end to what I can do with it.

You are walking above the cracked sidewalk now, above the weeds growing through the cracks, you are walking without knowing you’re walking, and the feeling pulsing through you is a feeling you will feel a few more times in your life, but this time, this moment, is the one you will come back to all your life when you hear the word joy, the word power, the word infinite, the word universe.

You are eleven years old.

Later in your life you will think of eleven as the magic age of girls. One day you will sit down to write a novel about an old man, an old man who is walking away from you through snowy pine woods, in far upstate New York, holding a candle lantern in each hand, lighting up the woods for the cross-country skiers.

As you begin to set this image down on paper, a girl will appear in your mind, bent over a school desk, scribbling  furiously on a yellow pad of lined paper. She will not look at you. Long messy hair will obscure her face. She will be angry, and smart, and in her anger and her smartness there will be great power.

What she is scribbling down on that yellow pad of paper is the book you want to write. She will write it for you. Early on, she will write these lines:

Let me tell you that a girl of eleven is capable of far more than is dreamt of in most universes. To the casual passerby a girl like me is just a girl. But a girl of eleven is more than the sum of her age. Although it is not often stated, she is already living in her twelfth year; she  has entered into the future.

She is eleven years old, that girl. The book will become a  novel called Shadow Baby, published by the wonderful Shaye Areheart of Shaye Areheart Books. To this day it feels to you as if that girl, Clara, wrote it. You wish you knew her. You wish you could be her, walking with such purpose down the streets of that little town.

* * *

Shadow Baby has just been re-released in a new edition published by Three Rivers Press. Here’s a teeny photo of the new edition, teeny because I’m a photo idiot and have no idea how to make it bigger.

shadow-baby-three-rivers-edition-cover4

I always saw the cover photo as a girl in a long coat, her arms stretched around a tree from behind. Others have seen it as a pregnant woman, holding her belly. As Clara would say, “Who’s to say? Who’s to know?”