I’ve waffled at times on my decision to add her other maternal great-grandparents to my new novel, What’s Left. It was already a big book with a big story when their role expanded, even as I was repeatedly pondering what else could be eliminated without detracting from the whole.
One bold quick cut would take Ilias and Maria out altogether. The story line would be tighter if Bella’s parents had simply rejected her when she tells them she’s marrying into Cassia’s family. But Ilias the Cypriot Greek and his wife, the Cuban-born Maria, insist on inserting their own spicy ingredients to the stew.
For one thing, they strengthen Bella’s emerging role as the family matriarch. For another, they loosen the symmetry of the brothers/brothers-in-law and sisters/sisters-in-law at the helm of the family restaurant that had hired Bella at the outset of the war years. And, my, how they dote on her baby Dimitri and then his brothers and sisters as they come along.
Their embellishments add humanity and warmth. And so they move in – and stay.
I’ve become a big believer in adopting people into the family – one’s who aren’t blood relations but belong all the same. Is that something you, too, do?
Who is your favorite family member? What makes that person special? How do you think that individual sees you in return?
In my new novel, What’s Left, her mother’s grandparents sail from Patras, Greece, to America in the years just before the First World War. In contrast, her father’s side appears to have farmed the Midwest in the oblivion of forever.
In observance of Independence Day, here are images from the Library of Congress in homage to those immigrants who arrived in that period by way of Ellis Island in New York Harbor.
In my new novel, What’s Left, she’s retelling much she’s heard from others.
As Cassia might say, while describing the story she’s telling:
Look, if I’m telling you something, it’s happening now. I don’t care if the event took place a hundred years ago, when I evoke it, it’s all happening now, right in front of us. Anyone mind if it’s for the umpteenth time? Or if I’m quoting someone else in my own voice? It’s all coming through my mouth, so it’s me, too. Pay attention. OK? Now listen! Especially you, Baba.
As an author, I had to ask myself the question. Now it’s your turn for input.
Is it fair to put secondhand dialogue – even hearsay – in separate quotation marks? Or is it some other blending of voices?
There’s a word for these. Phobias. Maybe you know the particular terms for each one.
You pass a police car sitting beside a highway and automatically look in the rear-view mirror, clueless to any possible offense.
Spiders or rats, just because others in my household freak out at the slightest suspicion.
Any missing item. I’ll go squirrelly trying to find it.
Saying the wrong thing … after the fact. Just what was it, anyway? How could that possibly have been offensive?
I’m going to be late – or even miss it altogether. An airline flight, a crucial appointment, or just a big meeting, maybe even where I’m the featured attraction. But interruptions keep me from getting started out the door. And then there’s the possibility of bad traffic.
Some undiagnosed affliction. Like cancer.
Being powerless or helpless. Especially in the face of bureaucracy or injustice.
Losing my keys.
Can’t find the car. Not just a parking lot, either.
Getting locked out of the house when everyone else is away.
’Fess up now. Add to the list.
Of course, this is totally unrelated to the theme. Just another thing on my mind.
As Cassia investigates the workings of her extended family, she finds that much of its vitality has resulted from the colorful members in her father’s generation who freely chose to join in. She could say their role was as important as the siblings who were born into the family.
Her father, her uncle Graham, and aunts Pia and Yin all advance the family fortune. It’s a powerful ring, one where they all get along together. Is it too much to expect? Or more good luck?