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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kim Edwards at Barnes & Noble

The new year started out wonderfully as I had the pleasure of attending a reading and book signing of Kim Edwards, who is promoting her new book, The Lake of Dreams.

Many of you know that Kim wrote the fantastic novel, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, which became a smash hit in 2006 when it came out in trade paperback. It actually began a trend whereby books that didn't sell well in hardcover became really popular in paperback. Seeing its success, many publishers began bypassing hardcover versions of some books and going right to trade paperback, enabling many books to reach a much wider audience more quickly.

Edwards' new book is set in a village in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, much like her hometown of Skaneateles. I grew up in Auburn, ten minutes up the road from Skaneateles, so this book intrigues me a great deal.

At the Barnes & Noble on 86th St. in New York City, Edwards kicked off her book tour. She read a bit from the book, and then talked about it. The book is a first person narrative about Lucy Jarrett, who goes back to her hometown to find that what she has been told about her family is not necessarily the truth, a theme similar to The Memory Keeper's Daughter.

Lucy finds some papers hidden in a cupboard about her ancestors, and the book has two parallel stories- Lucy's current day story, and the story of her ancestor. What intrigues me most about this book is that Edwards uses a lot of local flavor- the suffragette movement that started in Seneca Falls in 1848, glass blowing (Corning Glass is located less than 2 hours from Skaneateles), stained glass windows (much like the Tiffany ones in Willard Chapel in Auburn)- to tell her story. This book should be of special interest to those who live in Central New York.

Edwards then answered questions from the audience, and there were many good ones. Many people were moved by The Memory Keeper's Daughter, and one woman told the author that she loved how the author was able to make the reader identify with each character in that book. I agree, Edwards did a marvelous job not making anyone out to be the 'bad guy' in the book. She made the reader understand each character's motivation, and how difficult it was to make a life-altering decision.

Many people commented on Edwards' use of poetic language, and spoke of how beautifully she writes for her characters. One person asked if she began with language or characters first, and while Edwards said "they are interwoven, it begins with character."

Another question concerned whether the author plotted out her story lines, or whether it was more of an intuitive process. Edwards spoke of studying how various authors wrote, and said she believes most authors fall across a continuum, with those who write intuitively, like Nadine Gordimer, on one end, and those who plot everything out first, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, (whom Edwards was surprised to find did this) at the other end. Edwards feels she falls more towards the intuitive end of the spectrum.

Writing The Lake of Dreams took Edwards almost four years, and she actually was in the midst of writing it when The Memory Keeper's Daughter hit the stratosphere in 2006. She put it away, but Lucy's story stuck with her, and she began again.

It was a delight to meet Ms. Edwards, we spoke warmly of our hometowns, and she told me her brother Mark owns one of my family's favorite restaurants, Doug's Fish Fry, in Skaneateles. I can't wait to read The Lake of Dreams, and will post a review very soon.

My review of The Memory Keeper's Daughter appeared in the Citizen in June of 2006 and you can find it here.  If you haven't read that one, you are missing a great story, masterfully told.

You can find out more about Kim Edwards and her books at her website, www.kimedeardsbooks.com

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