Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I Couldn't Love You More Book Review

Today I am reviewing I Couldn't Love You More by Jillian Medoff and I was lucky enough to interview Jillian as well.

Eliot Gordon would do anything for her family. A 38-year-old working mother, she lives an ordinary but fulfilling life in suburban Atlanta with her partner, Grant Delaney, and their three daughters. The two older girls are actually Eliot's stepdaughters, a distinction she is reluctant to make as she valiantly attempts to maintain a safe, happy household . . .

Then Finn Montgomery, Eliot's long-lost first love, appears, triggering a shocking chain of events that culminates in a split-second decision that will haunt her beloved family forever. How Eliot survives-and what she loses in the process-is a story that will resonate with anyone who has ever loved a child. With hilarious honesty, wrenching depth, and a knockout twist, I COULDN'T LOVE YOU MORE illuminates the unbreakable bonds of family and reveals the lengths we'll go to save each other, even as we can't save ourselves.

What inspired you to write I Couldn't Love You More?

I received an MFA at NYU. While I was there, I took a master class with the very brilliant writer, Grace Paley who said, “Write what you don’t know about what you know.” It didn’t occur to me until a few years ago that this is exactly what I do. I’ll take moments from my own life, from my family’s life, from strangers’ lives and I’ll look at what would normally happen—what I know—and then I’ll consider everything I don’t know, the big “what if’s.” So here’s what I knew when I started to write I Couldn’t Love You More: I’m a mother and stepmother. I have three children. I love them each equally but all differently. I’ve always been a writer who tackles complex themes and risky subjects—I write about the things that people think but never say aloud. If a book has a predictable storyline or familiar situations, there’s little satisfaction for me in writing it. A woman deciding which man she’ll spend her life with? I’ve read that story a million times, but a stepmother deciding which of her children she’ll save in a freak accident? Now that’s a challenge. I had no idea how I would react if forced to choose between my daughters, and figuring that out became my obsession for the next decade. In fact, even though the novel is finished and published, I still grapple with the question. I mean, how can any of us know what we would do in that situation?

What’s your favorite part of the book?

My favorite part is the personal essay in the Reader’s Guide called This is not a True Story. It’s about the evolution of I Couldn’t Love You More, although it focuses primarily on the punishing life of a working writer. My favorite part of the story proper is the startling climax. It’s harrowing, horrifying, scandalous, and leaves me breathless every time I read it.

How did you name your characters? Were they named after people you know?

This is a very interesting question. The three adult sisters are actually named after their mother’s favorite writers: Eliot is named for George Eliot, Sylvia is named for Sylvia Plath, and the youngest sister, Maggie, is named for Margaret Atwood. I could never name my characters after people I know because then I wouldn’t be able to get any distance from them. Sometimes I’ll call a character Mister X or Girl D until they become real; that is, until they start to develop three-dimensionality. For me, this is usually when they begin speaking. Dialogue is very important to me, and through it, I get a sense of a character’s true self. That’s when I feel I can name them, and when I do, it’s just names that appeal to me—or don’t—depending on the character’s nature.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

To be honest, I want readers to be wrung out. As a novelist, I don’t have a political agenda or specific philosophy; I’m trying to create a gut-wrenching, intimate, memorable experience. I hope I’ll keep people up at night, unable to stop turning pages. That’s my goal: exhausted, emotionally drained readers who can’t stop crying.

Do you have any more books in the works?

We sold I Couldn’t Love You More two years ago, so for the past 18 months, I’ve been working on a new novel, a corporate book I’ve been dying to write for a long time. All I can say is that it’s set in the HR Department of a small, failing company. The head of the department has a stroke, and then…

Thank you Jillian, I really enjoyed reading I Couldn't Love You More and I highly recommend it to all of you!

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