Fine. I’ll confess. I always feel a little panicked when friends of mine give me something to read written by friends of theirs. What if I hate it? What then? This is exactly the position I found myself in a few years ago when my friend Dawn Houghton gave me an ARC of STORY OF A GIRL by someone in her writing group.
That someone was Sara Zarr.
Well. I put that book in my TBR pile. And I ignored it for awhile, until I finally got to the place where I wanted to stop avoiding Dawn. So. I picked it up. And I began reading.
Okay. Have you ever had one of those reading experience that was so transfixing, you remember exactly where you were while you were reading so the memory of reading is almost as precious to you as the book itself? It’s only happened to me a few times, and one of those was when I fell into Sara’s first novel. It was night. I was sitting on our back porch beneath a bright light. My right leg was hanging over the side of our Adorondack chair. I remember all this because Sara’s book engaged my senses fully.
From that night on, I became a fan, admiring Sara’s work on so many different levels. First of all, there’s her prose. Clean and lean. Evocative and elegant. Sara is a careful craftsman and a superior stylist. And then there are the themes she tackles. They’re big. In all of her books, including The Lucy Variations, Sara explores love, loss, betrayal, forgiveness, and finally, redemption. And who can forget her cast of characters? Whenever I read a Sara Zarr novel, I think of that sentence from Flannery O’Connor’s story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” It goes like this: “The trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled.” Critics say this reflects O’Connor’s attitude toward her characters, and the same could be said of Sara’s attitude, as well. Her characters are flawed, sometimes deeply so. Lucy, for example, is self-absorbed, heedless. Her mother is distant. Her grandfather, rigid. But Sara regards all these people with such compassion that we, the readers, do the same, because they are so very human, full of desire and fear and hope. They are us. And even though there are no paranormal beings, no spies, no car crashes in the Lucy Variations, we still find ourselves racing through the pages, eager to find out what happens next.
How does Sara do it?
I don’t know.
I’m just so happy she does.
Please join me in welcoming National Book Award finalist and critically acclaimed author who is being featured this weekend in the New York Times Book Review, my friend Sara Zarr.