Published by St. Martin's Press on August 9th, 2016
A beautiful and provocative love story between two unlikely people and the hard-won relationship that elevates them above the Midwestern meth lab backdrop of their lives.
As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It's safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.
By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy's family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. A powerful novel you won’t soon forget, Bryn Greenwood's All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.
Wednesday, August 10, at 6:30 pm I had the honor of meeting and talking with Bryn Greenwood. She was discussing her latest book, ‘All The Ugly and Wonderful Things’. Admittedly, I had not read the book, yet. But many of my friends had and raved about it. So when I discovered (3 hours before the signing) that she was going to be in my hometown at Rainy Day Books, I knew I wanted to take the 40-minute journey to meet her and hear about this book that captured so many people’s attention.
I can’t say I came prepared for this event with anything to write on other than ONE SIDE of a 3X5 index card that happened to be in my purse. Which was very frustrating because when I ran out of space to write, I had to switch to the “Notes” app on my phone. For most people, that would be fine, but I mistype frequently, and autocorrect
hates me gets confused! So the following are questions posed to her from the audience and with the exception of one quote, the rest is paraphrased.
Question: How long did it take you to write this book?
Answer: The first draft had 200,000 words and took only 6 months! She started writing it in 2009. It took 3 years for revisions, refining the voices of her narrators and dialogue.
Question: Where did you get your inspiration?
Answer: She was driving home from a meeting when she noticed a man riding a motorcycle on a small dirt road in the middle of a field (corn maybe? I don’t remember ). She wondered what he was doing, and where he was going. From there the story took flight.
Question: What did you think about while writing this book?
Answer: She said the thing that obsessed her while she was writing, was how we co-opt other people’s stories while talking about our own. Further, we lose our ability to tell our story when other people tell it. The story changes. Like when the news gets ahold of a story and you find out later that isn’t quite how it happened. (This reminds me of this story, “Shawn Johnson reveals ’embarrassing’ truth behind memorable Olympic picture”) This was what she wanted to delve into with her 16 different narrators.
Question: What do you hope people will get out of this book?
Answer: She is interested in seeing if people would have done things differently than the characters in her book. She wants people to talk about consent, “We act like sex is the only thing we mean by consent. Consent goes beyond sex, what impact does it have on children?” We don’t teach children how to say no. We teach them to obey adults, kiss that aunt, hug that uncle, obey that coach, we teach them by not doing so is to be rude. So it shouldn’t be shocking when children don’t say no to an abuser we have told them to obey. Because we don’t teach them how to say no, we teach them not to be rude.
Question: What’s next for you?
Answer: She is writing a YA novel!