Please put on your long white gloves and give an enthusiastic Debutante Ball welcome to Kate Ledger! Kate’s written a gorgeous post about book clubs, the way we interact with books we love, and she’s giving away THREE copies of Remedies, so stick around for the comments!
Kate Ledger received a Master of Fine Arts in fiction at the University of Arizona. She worked as the senior writer at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, and went on from there to write her first novel. As a freelance writer, she continues to specialize in medical topics and has published articles in Health, Parents, Sports Illustrated and other national magazines. She lives in St. Paul, MN, with her husband and children.
Remedies received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Kirkus called the novel “a complex, nuanced engrossing portrait of a doctor’s life.” Remedies has been named a Self magazine book pick, an Indie Next List notable book, and an Ingram Premier Pick, a top recommendation to the nation’s libraries. It was chosen as as the community-wide reading selection of the Twin Cities Jewish Book Fair and is featured on the Facebook site: “I bet we can make these books best sellers.”
The Writer Makes House Calls
I have to admit, I love seeing other people’s living rooms. I’m game for any open house tour. My own living room has been years taking shape. My husband and I finally bought a sofa, but even now, we’re still deliberating about colors for the walls. Our undecided color scheme was in my thinking, when my novel, Remedies, was published. Book clubs, I decided, would provide the answer. I acknowledged to my husband that, yes, I’d be out occasional evenings to talk with groups at their homes, and, no, I wasn’t sure if it would be a time-efficient way to promote the book. “At least I’ll get to see other people’s paint choices,” I pointed out.
I’ve visited with quite a few book clubs now, and I’ve seen living room paint combinations that are truly inspired. But the experience of sitting with readers and discussing the novel has been so much more than all that. In fact, it’s been unlike anything I ever imagined. If the experience of completing the book was the most gratifying of all, meeting with book groups has been a close second.
Usually when I visit with a group, I describe how I came to write Remedies, a story of a successful doctor and his wife, a public relations executive, still suffering years later from the loss of a child. I describe my background writing about medicine for magazines, and how the incredible people I met on the job inspired the fictional character of the doctor, a man devoted to treating other people’s pain. I discuss themes most important to me as I was writing, in particular, the way we, as individuals, struggle to heal, even when we’re not quite aware of making the effort. For me, the book is very much about how we sometimes do destructive things—to ourselves and to each other—to prompt a necessary change in our lives.
It’s interesting to hear first-hand what caught readers’ attention in the novel, what moment they knew they were hooked in the story, what lines they may have underlined because a particular truth hit home. Readers have pointed out connections I wasn’t even aware of. At one book club, as we were talking about the actions of the couple’s angry teenage daughter, one woman declared, “Well, of course she pierces her navel. That’s her connection to her mother!” I’d never quite thought of that detail so explicitly (having almost once had my own pierced), but there it is on the page. Sometimes readers want to talk about their frustration with the characters, who are gritty and often ill-mannered, and who have personal flaws in addition to the baggage of longstanding grief. Some readers align themselves with the husband, others with the wife. What I’ve come to see is that a book is like a Rorschach test, each person interpreting through the lens of his or her life experiences. It’s true, once a book is out in the world, it no longer belongs to the author. It belongs to each reader.
Tremendously personal stories sometimes arise at these gatherings. Remedies is about physical as well as emotional pain. At one book club, in the midst of the discussion, a woman burst into tears and disclosed that her husband suffers from the kind of chronic pain described in the book, the kind that baffles doctors and has no easy treatment. No one in the group had known, though she’d been attending for several years. His condition has paralyzed their family life and ruined relationships with other relatives who refuse to sympathize. She said she was initially afraid to read the book because she worried it might hit too close to home. Then, the novel became a world she didn’t want to leave. What she wished for her husband was a doctor like the one in the book.
But I couldn’t have anticipated how the book clubs would inspire me. One group I met recently had a history that blew me away. They’d come together nearly two decades ago when one of them lost a young daughter to cancer. The women rallied and started fundraising, establishing a foundation for cancer research that’s raised millions. But they also began getting together to read and share books, and through their book group continue to be connected through conversations that extend to other topics. I was moved by the story of their origin, and their earnest, forthright discussion of loss. It was a soulful meeting, and felt I learned a lot about perseverance and hope through their stories.
So many book clubs later, my living room remains unpainted, but I’ve gained something else: a sense of the life of the book at its destination. One group even left me with words that are egging me on to finish my next one. This particular group has been discussing books since 1958. Now in their seventies and eighties, the women remain lively and analytical and passionate about literature (and also bring phenomenal baked goods to meetings). They’ve even kept records of all the books they’ve discussed over the years. As we’d talked about Remedies, they spoke about the complexities of marriage, the necessary and sometimes painful changes in relationships over time. The connection I felt to them was soaring and powerful. It was almost a romantic feeling, that surprise of being wholly understood. One woman leaned in and asked, “Are you writing another one?” Yes, I said, I am. “Are you going to finish it soon, dear, like in my lifetime?” I think of her these days as I’m writing, typing as fast as I can.
How about that for a gorgeous guest post? Kate’s a lovely writer and a lovely person, and we’re grateful to have her visit! You can visit more with Kate on her website or on Twitter! Watch the book trailer or read on to learn more about Remedies, and comment to win one of three copies she’s giving away!
Simon and Emily Bear look like a couple that has it all. Simon is a respected doctor. His wife, Emily, shines as a partner in a premier public relations firm. But their marriage is scarred by hidden wounds. Even as Simon tends his patients’ ills, and Emily spins away her clients’ mistakes, they can’t seem to do the same for themselves or their relationship.
Simon becomes convinced he’s discovered a cure for chronic pain, a finding that could become a medical breakthrough, yet he is oblivious to the pain that he causes at home. Emily, struggling to move beyond the devastating loss she and Simon suffered fifteen years earlier, realizes she hasn’t felt anything for a long time–that is, until a lover from her past resurfaces and forces her to examine her marriage anew.
In a debut novel on par with today’s top women writers, Remedies explores the complicated facets of pain, in the nerves of the body and the longings of the heart. Depicting modern-day marriage with a razor-sharp eye, Remedies is about what it takes, as an individual and as a couple, to recover from profound loss.
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