What, me as a Mixmaster? Just look at the topics percolating in my novel What’s Left.
Here are ten.
- Questions of personal identity. For Cassia, this moves from a desire to fit in with what she considers normal for her peers and classmates and turns into something more solitary Goth before she hits stride as a rock concert manager.
- Questions of just what, exactly, identifies a family. Hers has its landmark restaurant as well as a circle of close cousins and siblings she calls the Squad. But she’s still missing her dad.
- Greek-American experience. She grows up in her mother’s extended family, the fourth generation after two brothers and their spouses, two sisters, arrived in Indiana from Greece. It’s a colorful tradition.
- Family owned-and-operated business. Their landmark restaurant means the kids learn to work early, and their parents often have to miss big events at school or sporting events. It also presents uniquely troubling aspects when company clashes erupt or a member dies and inheritance taxes are due.
- Guerrilla economix. Her uncle Dimitri advocates a community of small-is-beautiful economics using the restaurant as its base. Seeing himself as a socialist capitalist, he champions generous worker benefits, funding worthwhile startups, and creating considerate rental housing.
- In this family, even its initial hot dog joint adds distinctive touches. When they acquire burger-and-fries Carmichaels’, they look for local sources to give them an edge, especially in their daily soups and specials. And then when they branch out into upscale and vegetarian lines, the thinking turns especially creative.
- Bohemian life. There’s Gypsy, from one direction, and hippie, from another. And Cassia’s aunt Pia, so full of kefi, makes the most of it.
- Keys to success. Cassia soon realizes the ideal of the self-made man is an illusion. Her family is a model of working together, even mentoring. Her father’s fame would have never come about without their support.
- The Dharma. Members of her family, especially her father, take up Tibetan Buddhist practice before she comes on the scene. It gives her a dual outlook on religion and spirituality.
- Emotional loss and recovery. Cassia loses her father to a mountaineering accident when she’s 11, setting her on a course to recover whatever she can of him. But ultimately everyone in her family suffers a deep personal loss, and how each of them addresses it leads either to bitter despair or else emotional growth and wisdom. Guidance often appears in the most unexpected times and places.