I have been asked what this book is about, and I seem to have a different “elevator pitch” each time. It’s about the 1980s, or how the 1970s became the 1980s became the 1990s. It’s about politics and feminism–there are shades of “me too” and economic inequality and how the obsession with wealth in the 1980s (because this was truly when corporations became people, and people in turn became corporations) shaped how human beings dealt with each other–in particular (to use the parlance of the 80s) how this all “trickled down” to children. But it is also about homes and families and change. I lived in five different houses from age 1 to 18 (well, an apartment, a duplex, a small house, a bigger house, a house near a lake on an island, and a dorm, to be more accurate) and it is more likely that my daughter will stay in one house until she graduates. We stay put.
Here is an excerpt from a chapter that takes place right after our third big move to Andover, Massachusetts:
“We walked through the new house, a gold split level with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a light, airy basement and right away it seemed like a house meant for children who got bikes for Christmas, kids who went to Disney World over February vacation. It was bigger and brighter than our old house, and it had five acres of land. Our old house’s quarter-acre had been one of the biggest patches of green in our neighborhood, with the exception of the reservoir, and so five acres felt like an endless expanse, and it was both exciting and intimidating. My brother and I walked out back and just kept walking, when the lawn stopped and the wild field began. Although we did not know where the property line ended, the rest was all conservation land anyhow. We walked and walked, and the overgrown grass was golden and smelled like toast and honey, and instead of broken bottles or food wrappers we stepped over twigs and rocks and grass—and it was quiet, so quiet: no yelling of children’s names, no growling mufflers, no screen doors slamming. I thought, This is the country. I live in the country now.”
“Dinner in the Graveyard,” She Lived and the Other Girls Died