When I set out to become a novelist, I didn’t realize the corners it would make me turn, the things it would teach me: how to weld a ship together, live aboard an aircraft carrier--even butcher a chicken. It’s not so surprising that in the process of writing an historical novel I’d learn a few facts. What I didn’t expect at all was that the same process would challenge and guide me through my own explorations of some of the questions my characters encounter: how (and whether) to tame or feed or foster your most outrageous dreams; how to accept unacceptable loss; how to know when it’s time to let go, and then how to do it.
My new novel, I Gave My Heart to Know This, is the story of three women who work as welders at a shipyard during World War II and the tragedy that binds them, even as it divides them. Years later, a great-granddaughter, caring for the family home, pieces together the friends’ long-buried secrets, and learns the difficulties--and the possibilities--of forgiveness.
I began by poring over shipyard newsletters, photographs, blueprints. I interviewed some old-timers who told me “the way it really was.” I read about everything from naval battles to copper mining to photography to rheumatic fever, explored the engine room of a great ship, stood under the spire of a church. I spent a lot of time in archives. One of the best sources I found was a twenty-page, handwritten account of shipyard work by a woman who was a welder. I borrowed several incidents from her amazing descriptions, including an incident when she was standing in a rowboat welding on the side of a ship and leaned too far forward in her heavy welding garb. Her foreman grabbed her, saving her life; if she’d fallen in the water, she’d have sunk straight to the bottom. (The dangers of the job were many, and, to us in the modern OSHA-regulated world, almost inconceivable.)
Then came my favorite part: translating what I’d gleaned into the experience of fiction. How would it feel to make an overhead weld, sparks raining down, in a space so narrow the smoke chokes you? To fall in love with someone you’d “met” only in a letter? To carry an undeniable sense of patriotic and familial duty, alongside your dream of a different life? And then, to try to understand how your best efforts to save precious things might instead have been complicit in their loss.
Next, I developed a mystery. Time passes; things which are broken and missing long to be fixed and found. And there’s an old house with a seeming incontrovertible will of its own that holds the clues, and maybe the answers--if only someone will look.
Pinned to the wall of the attic of this house is a map of the world, with a red X marking “home.” Early on, the children play a pirate game, searching for buried treasure--and perhaps, it comes to seem, the treasure is their home--problematically. I thought a great deal about that map as I wrote: not only the meanings it has for my characters, but how comforting it would be if only I had such a map to write by. Instead, I learned that journeys are best guided by curiosity and desire and a willingness to be taken far--and that the best discoveries are often the things you didn’t know you were seeking.
Loved this story. I read it in one day. This is a story about a teen mother's love for her child & how it affects her life. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Amazon Customer
Entertaining with some beautiful thoughts. Held one's interest til the end when it became a bit thick. Glad I read it! Good characters.Published 2 months ago by Kindle Customer
Beautiful story of love, fear, hope, loss and forgiveness. The fact that sadness and pain can carry across generations even without knowing the causes. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Jojo4
I wanted to like this book more, but I just didn't. It was just okay. I don't appreciate gratuitous F-bombs in the books I read, and when the brother appreared half way through... Read morePublished 3 months ago by mama2five
Too many characters for the reader to follow. The co-incidents are not plausible. I finished this book hoping something interesting or profound would happen. I was disappointed.Published 3 months ago by Thomas Zampano