Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Book Report: Monica McInerney

Today's t-shirt: Shirt for "The Ticket," the local sports talk radio station, that I won in a sports trivia contest. Yes, in spite of the fact that the only sports I pay any attention to are figure skating and University of Texas football, I somehow managed to win a sports trivia contest at a professional association meeting. I just happened to know all the answers, probably because of reading the newspaper every day and watching the local news, which includes a sports segment.

Book progress: I wrote chapter eight yesterday and got started on chapter nine. That time management thing must really have worked because I managed to go to a movie and then later spend the evening watching House and the Boston Pops, and I still wrote 23 pages. Plus, I got exercise from walking to and from the movie theater. I set an alarm again this morning, but lost some time in a long phone call with Mom, but that sort of counted as work because we were talking about the book. It seems that I somehow managed to perfectly capture my great grandmother in a character I created, in spite of the fact that she died when my mom was a child (so obviously I never met her). I decided I might as well go with it, and Mom told me some things about her I never knew that might end up working in the book. I think I'm still ahead of the curve timewise for the day, as I've done almost everything on the to-do list other than the actual writing.

My July 4 was pretty low-key. I watched the local parade on the city access cable channel, then watched the Boston Pops and the Boston fireworks on TV. Whatever happened to the A&E special they used to do that showed the whole concert and then the fireworks? This new one-hour version was pathetic. I guess A&E really has hit bottom, since they were showing "Dog the Bounty Hunter" instead. What happened to the network that gave us Pride and Prejudice? I'm all sad now at the thought of what we've lost. I really missed seeing a live fireworks show. I love not only the lights but also the sound that you can feel. It's a very thrilling, visceral experience. Maybe next year I won't feel so swamped and I'll be able to carve out the time to fight traffic to go to a show.

There's a book I've been wanting to talk about since Christmas, but was waiting until it was released. I discovered a few days ago that it's already been released. That's the hazard of getting an advance copy. This was one that I picked up on my last trip to visit my editor in New York, when I was shopping her bookshelves. The description mentioned it having something to do with leading a group of senior citizens on a tour, and since I'd ended up sitting in the middle of a senior citizen tour group on my flight to New York (they were a lot of fun), I added it to my stack. I then picked it up to read while I was at my parents' house for Christmas, and those who were around here back then will know that was a very difficult time for me (here's the story for the newcomers). It made me laugh, which I needed, and it also made me cry, which was good and cathartic for me.

The book was Family Baggage, by Monica McInerney. It's about a young woman who works for her family's travel company. She's leading a group of senior citizens from Australia to England on a themed tour to visit locations from a TV series that ran briefly on the BBC but which gained a huge following from reruns in Australia. Her sister is supposed to meet her in England to guide the tour from there after having made all the arrangements, but her sister fails to show up and seems to have mysteriously disappeared. Our heroine has to take on the tour by herself while also trying to find her missing sister, and doing that means uncovering some family secrets. A few years ago, this book might have been packaged and promoted as chick lit -- it has a young female main character, a snappy, witty voice, a little romance and a lot of humor. I hesitate to say that there's more to it than in your average chick lit because I don't think that chick lit is necessarily shallow. I guess if your idea of chick lit is limited to "single, shopping, bad job, cosmos with gay best friend" then yeah, there's more to it than chick lit. Now they're promoting it as "women's fiction."

I also recently read her previous book, The Alphabet Sisters, which is about three Australian sisters who've had a serious rift and haven't spoken in years. Then their zany grandmother comes up with a wacky scheme to force them to come together again and overcome their differences.

The best way I can describe these books is that they have heart. They're warm and funny, and they're about the good and bad sides of family. The author is also a lovely person. After Christmas, I sent my editor a gushing note about how much I'd loved Family Baggage, and then I got an e-mail from Monica (from Ireland), thanking me for the kind words. My editor does these books, so you know she has great taste. :-)

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