*Kristan’s New Book Now That You Mention It is released today!
Bridget Jones’s Diary, one of my favorite movies of all time, opens with Bridget, alone on New Year’s Eve with a bottle of wine and a torch song, vowing that this year will be different, by God.
Bridget, we feel you. It’s that time of year, after all, when we start thinking about what we want to accomplish or who we want to be. Maybe it’s a finding a relationship or getting a promotion, ditching a toxic friend or taking better care of ourselves. Whatever it might be, most of us have at least a time or two in life when we think, “Things have got to change.”
For me, it was sophomore year of college. I’d spent a very lonely freshman year huddled in my dorm, desperately homesick, completely unprepared for college life. I remember the nights I’d skip dinner because I didn’t have a pal to eat with (sob!), and how my heart would lift if my mom wrote me a letter (this was the olden days, remember).
I decided college and I had gotten off on the wrong foot, so I transferred, and the second I got out of the car, I pretended to be outgoing, secure, cool and smart. And guess what? It worked, more or less (not sure about the cool part, but hey, I gave it a shot). I learned to embrace the phrase “fake it till you make it.”
Nora Stuart, the narrator of NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT, starts over this twice in her life—once as a teenager, desperate to get off the tiny Maine island where she’s seen as a loser (or worse, a winner, getting a coveted scholarship instead of the expected recipient, the town’s golden boy). She gets on the ferry and sheds the skin of a miserable adolescence and starts college determined to be somebody new. Nora says:
There’s a time of life when you rewrite your past. First, your teenage years. Just watch a reality TV show. All those aspiring singers or models or designers or cupcake chefs talk about their tragic childhoods, their sacrifices, and struggles. It makes for better TV if you talk about your “homeless” period, rather the truth—“I was so mad at my mother, I slept over my friend’s house that weekend.”
I rewrote my past, too, starting with the minute I walked into my dorm that cold January day. But I did the opposite. I didn’t want to be known for all the misery I’d been through. I wanted to be seen as the happiest person around.
And I was. God, I was.
It works. For seventeen years, it works. Great education, career as a doctor, cute apartment, hottie boyfriend…but things start to fall apart after she survives a life-threatening event. Nora starts to realize she can’t ignore her past as much as she might want to. Home, where she was once so happy and then so wretched—and which she left without a backward glance—is calling to her. It seems like her life in Boston won’t really work unless she addresses her past. Nora wants to know what happened to her father …and become closer with her stoic, capable mom…and make amends with her wild-child sister (currently in jail)…and get to know her sister’s teenage daughter, who’s living on the island for the summer…and maybe fall in love for real this time.
Mostly, though, Nora wants to make peace with her past. The tiny town has as long memory, and a lot of people enjoy reminding Nora she was once a fat, unpopular girl. In a way, Nora has to embrace that part of herself, because while she’s definitely reinvented herself, there’s always been a part that felt missing. Balancing both sides of herself—that lonely kid and the successful doctor—is the only way she’ll ever really feel whole. To paraphrase Mark Darcy, she needs to love herself exactly as she is…and find a guy who sees all sides of her, and loves them, too.
I hope you’ll enjoy NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT! Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review, saying it’s “a powerful, entertaining journey. Balancing emotion, humor, and a redemptive theme, Higgins hits all the right notes with precision, perception, and panache.”
I would love to hear about the times you’ve decided to reinvent yourself and how that worked out.
Thanks so much for having me, Girly Book Club!
Check out her book Now That You Mention it in our bookstore!