It's been a rough couple of years at my house. My husband lost his job. One of my kids got terribly sick. And our finances bottomed out so badly it'll be a miracle if we ever fully recover.
When people ask how I manage to cope with it all, I usually reply that I don't. But the truth is that I keep my sanity by taking little vacations from reality. Indeed, I have the greatest escape of all.
I write fiction.
Ironically, the novel I was working on through most of this crisis is about that very topic—escape. I say "ironically," because the idea for this book came to me before my world collapsed. And no, I wasn't being prophetic. Escape has always been my friend.
Back then, my life was still chugging cheerfully along. We were paying our bills every month, the children were healthy and happy, and I had the luxury of focusing on my writing without worrying about the mortgage .
Still, escape was on my mind, since it seemed to be the theme of my life when the husband was at work and the kids were at school. And it got me wondering what the ultimate housewife escape would be. Then all at once I had a vision of a portal smack in the middle of the most domestic setting. I saw a woman ironing her family's laundry. But right behind her on the basement wall there was a fissure—a crack, if you will, in the very foundation of her existence. Beyond it was the life she could have lived if she had made an entirely different choice.
This concept of this escape gave me such a thrill I knew I had to mold it into a book. The more I thought about it, the more excited I became.
Ultimately, it took shape as a novel called THE OTHER LIFE, which sold at auction to Putnam, and is coming out this January. It's about a woman expecting her second child who knows that another life exists in which she never married her kind and stable husband, but stayed with her neurotic yet exciting ex-boyfriend. When a sonogram reveals a terrifying problem with the pregnancy, the grief lures her to cross over to the other life, where she discovers that her mother, who committed suicide several years ago, is very much alive.
And so begins a journey of crossing back and forth between her two lives—the one with a frightening pregnancy but a devoted husband and beloved son ... and the other, with a dynamic boyfriend and the mother whose death tore a hole in her heart.
Each life has so much to offer that she doesn't want to choose, but she must. No spoilers here, but I hope that when the book comes out you'll read it to find out what happens. (If you want to stay abreast of news on this title, feel free to click here to sign up for my mailing list.)
Now that the book is complete and it looks as if my family is emerging from its darkest days, I still indulge my passion for escape. It takes the form of reading wonderful books, such as Susan Henderson's brilliant debut, UP FROM THE BLUE (a great book club pick if ever there was one!), working on a new novel about a woman visited by the ghost of Dorothy Parker, and simply daydreaming about the possibilityof THE OTHER LIFE rocketing to stardom and solving all our financial woes. Of course, that would mean my escape into fantasy will have created a real world happy ending. Now that's my kind of irony.
What about you? Do you use escape as a coping mechanism? If so, what's your poison? Writing? Reading? Daydreaming? A stiff drink? A joint on the back porch after dark? Would love to hear from you in the comments section ...