In a new novel, we meet lead character Esther Ainsworth and her family, late on the day they arrive at a new home in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, after a move from their home in Ohio … The …
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In a new novel, we meet lead character Esther Ainsworth and her family, late on the day they arrive at a new home in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, after a move from their home in Ohio … The new house, “the color of sand,” is larger than their former one and feels unwelcoming. The family is peering into a swimming pool — but it’s empty — and a cactus outside her bedroom window is “drinking up all the water in the desert,” the unhappy girl grumbles.
“The Infinite Pieces of Us,” tells of Esther’s journey — across the country and into a new life … and it tells of the diverse new friends she meets who help her grow and adjust.
Former teacher and successful author for young adults, Rebekah Crane of Evergreen, has just published her fifth YA novel on Nov. 1: “The Infinite Pieces of Us,” which should be available for YA readers soon if not yet on shelves. (Ask for it.)
Crane, who has two younger daughters, says the teens who populate her novel aren’t modeled after particular students she’s had in classes — but “kind of a meshing of kids I’ve taught — or met on author visits to schools. I’m always on the lookout …” Some are concrete, such as Jesus and Color. In “The Infinite Pieces of Us,” she thought about how characters changed: Moss changed a lot, Hannah changed a lot and the one who changed the most is Esther’s difficult stepfather, Tom, who insisted on the move to avoid a problem Esther had caused — so it was her fault they were in the desert.
Crane was most recently “on the lookout” at an International School in Brussels, where she has a connection. On those school visits, she talks to kids about her work and a writing career in general and reads brief selections from her books .And probably talks about what they’re writing …
She has also been working on a script for a film of her earlier book, “Aspen.” A different sort of challenge. “I loved that — it’s a completely different world, including navigating the business side.” She compared that experience to writing a book, where she “sees it like a movie in my head.”
We asked about her writing process. “I’m an organized writer. I take usually a few months to research and read — usually in spaces I want to write, whether fiction or non-fiction, and work pretty methodically piece by piece. I wish I had a little more space — I’m flying by the seat of my pants! I always find surprises along the way.
“The characters’ personality traits and back story develop along the way. Then I go back to the start — I love when that happens. In about four months, I have a first draft and the book develops slowly, over a year — not all at once. It’s edited before submission ... Each book is a stand-alone story.” (Others are: “The Upside of Falling Down,” “The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland,” “Aspen” and Playing Nice.”) Another one is due in August 2019; “Postcards for a Songbird.”)
Esther is especially good at math and she makes up clever math jokes that get conversations started. Pushed to join the church by her mom and very religious stepfather, she meets Beth, who wears interesting T-shirts and seems to question things as Esther does. Esther and her sister Hannah are supposed to be home-schooled, although that story line is not really developed. So she’s a thinking girl, but the new stuff she’s learning is social rather than intellectual, it seems — and much needed.
Color, a really imaginative, nicely drawn girl, becomes a friend when she comes to clean Esther’s house. She’s enrolled in a work-study program at school, and needs the money she can earn, since her single mom is unreliable and she and her brother, Moss, have a place to live, but not a steady source of groceries. Moss, who is a runner, becomes a connection for Esther and they grow some in parallel spaces as they fall for each other.
Esther’s new friends have a unique secret meeting place, where they feel free to talk about pretty much anything, unthreatened … Inclusion allows her to begin a new life — and grow a lot, intellectually, spiritually and physically.
I particularly liked Crane’s scenes set there — it’s called “Heaven”— and I enjoyed the sense of security it offered. (I wonder how many teens have anything comparable?) “Common things about teens,” Crane says: “they all like to hang out with friends and listen to music …”
Esther, while she tends to lack respect for things related to organized religion, often uses the work “numinous,” which refers to a spiritual quality in things. She just needs a different way of expressing that aspect of her life.
When Crane started teaching, there wasn’t much in the way of novels for young adults, she says. There was a huge goal to keep being more diverse and publishers responded. “Always to students, my job is to be honest. For me it’s most important to maintain a book’s honesty.” She finds her association with a group of like-minded authors who get together quarterly for dinner and conversation. Some write science fiction/fantasy, some contemporary. All are female. There’s an online forum and one retreat a year. “Great sounding board.” “Being a mom forces your hand,” she observes. “Things happen much more methodically.”
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