What I love best about being part of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, a group of talented women authors who help spread the word about great new books, is that I get the pleasure of reading and reviewing some of the most wonderful and original works of fiction. Maybe a better name for us would be the WWW- wise, wonderful women. And while we’re at it, let’s add one more W for witty!
The newest novel to share with you is titled, EVERYONE SHE LOVES, by the talented, insightful Sheila Curran. This is her second novel after DIANA LIVELY IS FALLING DOWN (which btw, Jodi Picoult LOVED). Here is a summary of the rich, beautifully told story:
A wise and triumphant novel about powerful bonds among four women who’ve come of age together only to discover that – when it comes to the essentials – life’s little instruction book will always need revising.
Penelope Cameron, loving mother, devoted wife and generous philanthropist, has convinced her husband and four closest friends to sign an outlandish pact. If Penelope should die before her two daughters are eighteen, her husband will not remarry without the permission of Penelope’s sister and three college roommates. For years, this contract gathers dust until the unthinkable happens. Suddenly, everyone she loved must find their way in a world without Penelope.
For Lucy Vargas, Penelope’s best friend, and a second mother to her daughters, nothing seems more natural than to welcome them into a home that had once belonged to their family, a lovely, sprawling, bed and breakfast on the beach. This bequest was only one of the many ways in which Penelope had supported Lucy’s career as a painter, declaring her talent too important to squander. But now, in the wake of a disaster that only lovable, worrisome Penelope could have predicted, Lucy has put her work on hold as she and Penelope’s husband, Joey, blindly grasp at anything that will keep the girls from sinking under the weight of their grief.
With the help of family and friends, the children slowly rebuild new lives. But just when things start to come together, the fragile serenity they have gained is suddenly threatened from within and the unbreakable bonds they share seem likely to dissolve after all.
In this moving and uplifting novel, Sheila Curran explores the faith one woman placed in her dearest friends, the care she took to protect her family, and the many ways in which romantic entanglements will confound and confuse even the most determined of planners. A story about growing up and moving on, about the sacrifices people make for one another, about the timeless legacy of love, Everyone She Loved is, above all, about the abiding strength of friendship.
Check out these amazing reviews:
“EVERYONE SHE LOVED is peopled with women of strong appetites—for love, for sex, for food—and Sheila Curran has amazing insight into the love-hate relationship that women have with each other and their own bodies. Curran is a beautiful writer, both witty and evocative, and she knows how to keep a reader riveted. I was up way past my bedtime, unable to stop turning pages. I had to know what happened to this family and their tight-bound troupe of friends as they meddled and muddled toward hope and new beginnings in the wake devastating loss. I fell in love with them all, from artistic, earthy Lucy, to broken little Tessa, to the oh-so-tightly-wound and mercurial Clover. Read this book, then pass it on to your dearest friend. She’ll thank you.” Joshilyn Jackson, Gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia, The Girl Who Stoppped Swimming
“Sheila Curran writes the novels that readers love — full of emotional complexity and rich plot twists, novels that echo our own deep desires and greatest fears. In her second novel, she takes on themes that touch us all — love, loss, motherhood, wifehood, and the sisterhood of friendship. It isn’t so much that Curran has found her greatest muse in the unbreakable bonds between women, but that the unbreakable bonds between women have have found their greatest writer in Sheila Curran.” — Julianna Baggott, best selling author of numerous books including THE PRETEND WIFE, MY HUSBANDS SWEETHEARTS, THE PRINCE OF FENWAY PARK
“Penelope Cameron May’s unusual last request sets off the action in this riveting novel of love and friendship, betrayal and lies. Sheila Curran draws the reader in and this inventive book won’t let go. Prepare to be surprised and moved. I read it in one delicious gulp.” Masha Hamilton, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US, THE CAMEL BOOKMOBILE
Whoever thought death could be so complicated? Or that love could demand a task force, or that after so many broken hearts, one woman’s will could leave a legacy of such healing? Penelope Cameron, even in death, makes the lives of everyone around her richer-and that includes us, the readers of this brilliant novel. We hold our breath as minor flaws become monsters-when Lucy’s overdraft protection fees bring her to brink of foreclosure, when Joey’s concern for his daughter’s eating disorder leads him into the clutches of conniving fitness charlatan-but in the end, this group of friends and lovers really do take care of each other. Everyone She Loved is for everyone who knows that love works, even when it’s complicated, for everyone who screws up, and can still do the right thing after all, and for everyone who enjoys a great novel, with friendship and forgiveness at its heart.
Paul Shepherd, Mary McCarthy Award winning writer of More Like Not Running Away
‘Everyone She Loved’ was the voice inside my head - at a time when I first contemplated my own mortality … this could have been my husband, my girlfriends and my children … it raises every emotion and suppressed fear within us all, with a clarity that is both deeply uncomfortable and yet stridently beautiful Julz Graham, television host, DIMENSIONS
BACKSTORY of EVERYONE SHE LOVED:
Books are born in strange places. This one was conceived in the front seat of a car.
No, not that kind of conception. My friend Julianna was driving. Our daughters were chatting in the back seat. I was talking about an article I’d written for McCall’s about two young girls in Arizona whose parents had died within months of each other. “Did you know that in some states, if there isn’t a will, the kids can be sent to foster care?”
The girls in my story weren’t so unfortunate. Their mother had named her best friends, another pair of sisters, as the children’s guardians. ”Just make sure you chose someone to take over if something happens to you.”
From there we talked about difficult it would be to chose which couple among one’s siblings and friends would best be suited for the job. Where did one couple’s permissiveness slide into overindulgence, another’s consistency into unbearable strictness? The idea of dying was hard enough, but figuring out which couple would most love your kids in your absence? Impossible.
We paused in our conversation just long enough for my brain to settle on yet another catastrophic possibility. “You know what would be worse?” I asked. “What if I died and John (my husband) married someone awful? I’d have no control at all!”
Another pause. “Unless,” I continued. “I could get him to agree that if he remarried, my sisters and friends would check out the bride. Make sure she wasn’t some kind of wicked stepmother.”
And thus was hatched the idea of EVERYONE SHE LOVED, a novel that explores the faith one woman placed in her dearest friends, the care she took to protect her family, and the many ways in which romantic entanglements will confound and confuse even the most determined of planners.
I recently asked Sheila these questions and here was her reply:
Q. If you could get a rave review in “People” magazine, what would you want it to say about your new book?
A. “A riveting, funny, poignant and addictive read.”
Q. Writing a letter can be daunting. How do you even begin the process of writing a novel? Does it start with a title? A character?A plot? All or none of the above?
A. I almost always start with a character and his/her quirks.
Q. I have to print off every draft page, which means that by the time I’m done, I’ve gone through two trees in Oregon. What is your process of getting out a first whole draft? How long might it take?
A. Forever! At least a couple of years of straight work.
Q. Do you have show and tell with your first draft?
A. Oh yes. Who do you trust for honest reaction, or is so fragile you show it to one you love who you know will be kind? I send to a bunch of people, including my sisters and friends, and I think they’re pretty honest. They tell me how to improve things. My sister Mary Anne Hudnall read every page of every draft. She was definitely my biggest cheerleader.
Q. What is one of the nicest compliments that you have ever received about your book(s)?
A. The best compliments come from readers who take the time to hunt me down and email me and beg me to hurry up and write another book. Many tell me they played hooky from work or gave up a night’s sleep to finish because they just had to know what happened.
Q. Whose writing talent do you greatly admire, and which successful author makes you want to gobsmack your head because you cannot believe they’ve had a bestseller(s)?
A. Mary Doria Russell, Joshilyn Jackson, Julianna Baggott, Masha Hamilton, Paul Shepherd, Carlos Eire, William Styron, Wallace Stegner, Jon Jefferson,Zadie Smith, Dennis Lehane, Ann Lamott, Karen Abbott, John Le Carre, John Fowles, Ken Follett, Doris Lessing, Elizabeth George. I wasn’t going to name any bad writer, because I don’t like to be mean, but people like Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter are so vicious and should be shelved in fantasy, not non-fiction, that I will say I’m shocked how many people fall for their venom as though it were anything but hateful.
Q. My author fantasy is to have one of my novels optioned by Clint Eastwood and he insists that I write the screenplay adaptation. What is your author fantasy?
A. That the director of The Piano, or Sally Potter, Sam Mendez, Alan Ball or Mark Wahlberg wants to make a movie or TV series based on my work.
Q. What has brought you the greatest joy since you were published, and what has caused you the greatest angst?
A. Oh, hearing that I was able to give someone a few hours of enjoyment is rightup there with the pleasure of having had a great writing day, so lost in my characters that I feel as though they’ve inhabited me. The greatest angst is worrying about the nearly impossible task of getting copies into readers’ hands. I know that once they read me, they’ll buy my next book, but it’s getting them to give me a try that’s so challenging.
I know you will love this story and urge you to read it! EVERYONE SHE LOVED was published this month by Atria Books (Simon and Schuster). Check out Sheila’s website www.sheilacurran.com