I just finished a section near the end of Bell Park that may have been one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. If you read the book when it comes out later this summer, you’ll know the section I’m talking about. Part of it is based on a real event that happened to my grandmother, Bess, who told me about it one evening many years ago. I never knew why she chose to confide in me that particular pain. Perhaps through this book her pain will not be forgotten.
Placing the character in that situation gave me a greater respect for the hard life my grandmother lived. You don’t grow up in Appalachia and have an easy life, but her life, my God, how she could have gone through that. I don’t know that I could have.
It’s so easy to think of our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents as the rather flat, one-sided people we grow up knowing, but I learned more about how we perceive our families from her and that was a gift I hope I have learned to translate into the characters of the books I write.
People cannot be contained. Each of us find our own way, I suppose. And sometimes it feels as if it is more than can be borne, but it must.