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Night Road: A Book Review

Title: Night Road

Author: Kristin Hannah

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Copyright: 2011

photo credit: Amazon

Jude knows what is to be raised by parents who were never present. Most of her childhood was spent reminding her career-drive mother of her own existence. Which is why she decided to be the most involved and approachable mother to her twins, Zach and Mia. Along with her husband, Miles, Jude builds a comfy life for her beautifully happy family in an affluent community.

Across the stream, within a collection of indigenous people’s mobile homes, Lexi is being raised by Aunt Eva. Determined to break the generational curse that landed her own mother in jail, Lexi vowed to create a better life for herself.

During their freshman year, Lexi and Mia hit it off and became inseprable friends. Each girl was exactly what the other needed and throughout high school they shared a special bond that grew only stronger with time. Jude opens her family’s home to Lexi and welcomes her as one of her own.

Senior year brings its usual pressures for the teens. Jude has worked hard to set her twins up for the perfect college and Lexi begins to complicate those plans when she falls in love with Zach. Jude is torn between wanting her children to be happy or succesful at the college of her dreams.

One night, after a wild senior party, tragedy strikes Jude’s family and she is thrust into unspeakable terror. In the days following she must choose once and for all how to protect her family at all costs.

This is a story about friendship, love, growing up, motherhood, loss, and redemption. There are so many aspects of life covered in this novel as it spans a couple of decades–the childhood and adolesence of Jude’s children. At times, it was easy to relate to Jude as a mother who wants the best for my girls, but at other times I saw the dangers of her “helicopter” approach to parenting and the way that affected her relationships. Night Road is a tale that cautions us to cling to those we love, but not so tightly that we strangle them.

I gave this book at 4/5 star rating. Although I can get behind anything by Kristin Hannah, there were parts of this book that seemed forced or unexplored. Without giving away too much of the plot, there was a trial that landed a teenager in jail for something I just don’t think is realistic. I found myself losing a little interest once I got to this portion of the story and I was less invested from there on out. But…Kristin Hannah is still a phenomenal writer in my opinion so the writing style kept me entertained. And her typicl twists and turns continued to surprise me until the final page.

Be sure to check me out on Goodreads for more reviews!

The Ameri Brit Mom

fiction · Uncategorized

Index Cards and Calling Around

This Saturday I’m multi-tasking. My husband is away at a coach’s training for our daughter’s first basketball season and I’m working on writing while heating up a healthy breakfast and entertaining my Christmas-anxious daughter.

Saturday mornings are my favorite. I pour myself a few cups of coffee and sit at the kitchen table where the natural light from the window helps me to wake up. I’m never more productive than on a Saturday morning, and that’s why I like to start it reading a little bit about writing. Today I started the final section of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Over these last few Saturdays of 2016 I will be reading about “Help Along the Way.” Here’s a look at the two chapters I read this morning:

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Index Cards

Writers are observers. We are note takers and list makers. As we live our lives we notice things that others do not. We are also human. Our memories are only capable of retaining so much. So as we observe, we lose most of those thoughts and descriptions to our own minds. Anne Lamott describes in this chapter about how she attempts to keep the thoughts and memories that she wants to include in her writing.

She uses index cards.

Her home is full of stacks of cards. Some are lined with vivid language while others contain just a word that triggers an entire memory.

I use a small notebook and my phone. I keep the notebook in my purse along with an arsenal of pens for any occasion. As I hear dialogue or witness a scene I jot them down for future use. If I’m being honest, I haven’t been a great observer lately. I’ve been caught up in my own life and my own thoughts. This chapter was a great reminder that I should always be recording notes. When I’m stuck in traffic-write. When I’m shopping at the mall-write. When I’m in school listening to the bogus reasons my students couldn’t finish their homework-write.

Whenever we face “writer’s block” we can turn to these thoughts which are already recorded and use them for inspiration.

Calling Around

Writing is not an individual activity. Sure, you spend many hours alone stringing words together, but the process of collecting those words is not a solo venture. As an individual I have a limit to the knowledge I possess. There are things I just cannot imagine or name for that matter. That’s why it is so important to live in community. Being a part of the world of friendship gives us access to information outside of ourselves. We have friends with extensive knowledge about World War II concentration camps, friends with vocabulary rich in cooking terms and analogies, friends with experiences in losing a spouse, friends with experiences in surviving a car accident. It is in these people that many of our stories are born-not our own minds.

It’s easy to seclude ourselves as writers and think that in order to “get things done” we need to be left alone with our craft. That expectation couldn’t be further from the truth. Individually, we are no where near as effective or knowledgeable as we are within our community. Writing isn’t about relying on ourselves. It is actually about relying on those around us for almost all of our inspiration and help as writers.

The Ameri Brit Mom

fiction · Uncategorized

Character-Brain, Plot-Brain: The Irresistible Novel

Venturing into week 22 of The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke requires a couple of short lessons on brain chemistry. In order to write a novel that is irresistible for readers one must understand the basic way a reader’s brain functions. In order to write this portion of his book, Gerke enlisted the advice and research of a man named Dr. Zak who is a  founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies.

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In the last chapter, Hacking Your Reader’s Brain, the author discusses the secret to hooking a reader. The secret he revealed is creating compelling characters and a plot rich in struggle. Characters are most compelling when their vulnerability is evident. Reader’s identify with protagonists who have major odds against them and who face situations with which many readers can sympathize. When a reader meets a character struggling with loss, need, or pain they quickly form a connection and investment in that particular character. Once you’ve built that connection the reader will continue to read your book to see whether or not the character will defy the odds against them.

When it comes to plot be sure to fill the pages of your book with struggle after struggle and vary between large scale and small scale struggle from the character’s perspective. If a reader senses that little conflict is taking place they check out emotionally. You want to create a plot that causes the reader’s heartbeat to race and oxytocin to release in their brains.

My Current Project

When it comes to compelling characters I feel that I’ve placed a lot of attention on the vulnerability of both of my main characters. Both have things they lack and want. Both are seeking to feel loved. Both have messed up in some major ways before the story even starts. From the point where each is introduced it is obvious that these characters’ lives are far from perfect and they are seeking the same things as the rest of humanity.

As far as my plot I have also tried to fill my manuscript pages with many struggles. This is an area I could continue to refine, but for now some major struggles include: addiction, loss, rejection, and love.

The Ameri Brit Mom