30 June 2014

Guest Post: Alison Graylin (Author of Stay with Me) on Mothers and Daughters

Stay with Me by Alison GaylinAlison Gaylin's third (and maybe final) Brenna Spector book, Stay with Me, was released just last week. Apparently I've been living under a rock because I missed the first two books (And She Was and Into the Dark) in this highly praised, critically acclaimed trilogy.

Once these suspense, thriller, mysteries were brought to my attention, I knew I had to learn more. The Brenna Spector novels are now near the top of my summer reading list and here's why they should be on yours too.

I'm so intrigued by Brenna Spector, who is not your usual private investigator. She suffers from hyperthymestic syndrome, a rare condition often brought on by trauma. As a result, Brenna has an absolutely perfect memory of every day of her life since the precipitating event. She recalls, without error, every word, smell, touch, and taste.

Now stop a minute and think about it: good or bad? Yeah, she may never have to hunt for her car keys, but she also cannot ever forget the sad things, the bad things. I wonder how Brenna deals with this and how it affects her friends and family.

I find it no surprise that Brenna focuses not on solving murders but on finding missing persons. Makes sense, doesn't it? Her clients also can't forget, which gives her an empathy that other PIs might not have. In addition, Brenna's condition was brought on by the disappearance of her own sister, so she knows firsthand what it's like to be left without answers.

I'm so pleased to hand over my blog to author Alison Gaylin today, who wonders how well we know the people we think we're closest too. The topic is very near to her protagonist Brenna Spector, who in Stay with Me is forced to ask herself how well she, even with a perfect memory, knows her own daughter.

Mothers and Daughters

When my daughter was ten years old, I saw her journal. To be honest, I hadn’t even known she’d been keeping one. We’d gone on a family vacation to Mexico, and when straightening up the hotel room, my husband and I found a plain white pad covered in her careful handwriting. We read it. Not the whole thing--just enough to know that this was something we shouldn’t be reading, something she’d written away from the watchful eyes of her parents, expressing emotions and daydreams she clearly wanted to keep to herself.

It was an eye-opener--not so much for the journal’s content, but for the idea that, already, our daughter had secrets.

It’s been said that no one ever fully knows anyone else, and it’s true. We’re all complicated, multi-layered organisms with thoughts and desires we never express to anyone, even ourselves. It’s a concept that’s liberating and isolating and, yes, frightening: How well do really know your spouse, your best friend, that guy sitting across from you on the subway?

But to find out that my child was one such organism--an individual with a rich, full and secret-laden life in which I was just a supporting player--it was a shock to the system in ways I still don’t understand and don’t want to think too hard about.

You get complacent with kids. You see them first as a sonogram image inside your body and then as a baby whose cry signals hunger, discomfort--a simple need, easily met. You teach them the words for things and they use those words and so of course, you can't help but see them as an extension of yourself. But here’s the thing: They keep growing. They pull away. They become the central players in their own lives and you slip into the periphery. They meet their own needs, they learn words you never taught them. They make their own mistakes.

That’s natural. It's the way it’s supposed to be. I just didn’t expect it to happen so fast.

My daughter is thirteen now. The idea that I can’t read her thoughts is no longer so shocking. She is honest and forthright, but she doesn’t tell me everything that crosses her mind and I don’t expect her to. I trust her enough to let her have secrets. I don’t read her journal.

But still the idea scares me a little. Okay, maybe more than a little. In my new book, Stay with Me, Brenna Spector’s thirteen-year-old daughter goes missing, and in her absence, Brenna finds drawings and email exchanges and discovers that she never knew her daughter at all. I don’t keep a journal, but I channel a lot of my feelings into the fiction I write. And Stay with Me is all about that fear, however irrational, of this person I raised and love so much being out on her own, beyond my reach . . . so many of her fears and hurts and disappointments, secret things I will never hear about and, therefore, can’t protect her from.

How well do I know my daughter? As well as I know anyone. And I guess that will have to be enough.
Thanks so much, Alison. You've certainly touched on one of the scariest parts of parenthood. We want our kids to grow up and become resourceful and independent but we will never stop worrying about them and wanting to know every little thing.

I'm curious how her daughter's disappearance will affect Brenna--not just because she's hyperthymestic but because of all the additional emotions motherhood will add to the mix.

Published by Harper, 2014
Source: Will be buying soon (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


bermudaonion 6/30/14, 9:17 AM  

I well remember how hard it was to allow kids their space at that age. These books sound fantastic!

Daryl 6/30/14, 9:44 AM  

you know now i am going to need to read these .. thanks!

Unknown 6/30/14, 5:47 PM  

What a fascinating premise for a mystery, and based on this post about mothers and daughters, I think I'd like this author's style. I'd never heard of her -- thanks for bringing her to my attention. I'm adding this book to my wish list. Hope to read and review it soon.

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