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The News from the End of the World Hardcover – February 21, 2017
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From the Publisher
An Interview With Emily Jeanne Miller
Author of The News from the End of the World.
1. What was your inspiration for The News from the End of the World?
In 2010 I became an aunt, and I started thinking a lot about that—specifically, the overwhelming and uncomplicated love I felt for my identical twin nephews. (Their mom and I are identical twins, too.) It didn’t take long to see how much easier it is to be an aunt than a parent. So I started writing about that—well, about an uncle, and the pure adoration he feels for his niece, in contrast to the complicated relationship that his brother has with her, and the story began to take shape from there.
2. The novel takes place in the span of four days. Why did you choose a short time frame to tell the Lake family story?
It’s a story about people under pressure. There’s a ticking clock for Amanda and her family. By limiting the novel’s time frame to just four days, I hoped the reader would experience the pressure and intensity the characters are experiencing.
3. The main character, Amanda, is seventeen and pregnant, and decides to have an abortion. How important did you think it was to include the other family members’ opinions on her decision in the story?
In a word: Very. These kinds of situations never happen in a vacuum, and part of what I wanted to do in the novel was explore how everyone in the family felt and how they came to have those feelings. That’s one of the best things about fiction: it gives us an opportunity to see the world, and issues, through the eyes of people who aren’t us. I wrote the novel, in part, to try to understand and empathize with a range of views on the subject of abortion, including those that aren’t mine. Regardless of your political views, an unwanted pregnancy is a very stressful, painful experience for anyone, and I’d hope we can all be empathetic about that.
4. While the book centers on Amanda’s decision, each character goes through his or her own transformation of sorts. Why did you decide to include their stories as well?
Everyone around Amanda is struggling with their own 'stuff'—their own pasts, their own life situations. I wanted to make each character a round, full person, and hopefully show how all of their own stories affect their opinions, their actions, and ultimately each other. It’s a story about a family, not just one person.
5. The book is set in the off-season on Cape Cod. Why did you choose this time and place?
I’ve always been drawn to vacation places once all the vacationers leave. Coming to the Cape in the summer, I’d always wonder about the 'real' town—the place beyond ice cream stands and putt-putt golf and trampolines. Now I live here year-round, and I’ve watched how the town settles into a very different—and very lovely—rhythm, when the storm shutters go up and days get shorter and the leaves fall off the trees. It’s a much slower rhythm, for sure, but there’s still so much happening. People are living their lives. And there’s so much natural beauty: snow on the bare tree branches, ice on the kettle ponds, the hard, unmistakable winter light. Not that it’s a contest, but the off-season Cape may be even more beautiful than the one the vacationers see.
6. What do you think family dramas might say about our larger social and cultural world?
I love reading family dramas—I suppose that’s why I write them. At their best, they reflect what’s going on outside of a family as well as inside, and can explore issues much larger than that specific family’s problems. In skilled, compassionate hands, the seemingly mundane details of family or daily life can add up to something profound—much more than the sum of its parts. I’m thinking, for example, about Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom books, and of course Cheever; more recently, the Neopolitan novels by Elena Ferrante, any of Curtis Sittenfeld’s novels, or Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. These writers’ subject is, ostensibly, family and interpersonal relationships, but their work ends up encompassing so much more.
7. Which character was your favorite to write?
I think it was Amanda. There was something about putting myself in the shoes of an angry, lonely, self-centered teenager that really moved me (and reminded me of how difficult it could be, at times, to be that age!). She behaves badly for a lot of the book, but I could see a teenager acting out like that in her situation, and I really felt for her. I don’t want to give too much of the book away, but I even cried, writing a few of her scenes.
8. Were there any other novels you turned to for inspiration while writing this one?
I like to read crime novels while I’m writing. It was Tana French’s books while I was writing The News from the End of the World. She, like all good mystery writers, is great at creating suspense and also moving the plot along, and I’m always trying to identify and utilize some of those techniques. Reading anything by Graham Greene always inspires me, too. His style and subject matter is worlds away from mine, but I’m always bowled over by the power of his prose, which makes me want to write, and write as well as I possibly can. It’s not a novel, but one my very favorite short stories is John Cheever’s 'Goodbye, My Brother.' I’ve read it countless times, and while I can’t say that story directly inspired The News from the End of the World, Cheever’s extraordinarily (if not particularly lovably) dysfunctional Pommeroys were never completely out of my thoughts while I wrote. I remember, also, finding inspiration/instruction in a couple of Steve Yarbrough’s novels—The End of California and The Realm of Last Chances. He does such a great job of getting in the heads of his different characters and making them all sympathetic, even when they do pretty unsympathetic things.
—Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and The Summer Before the War
“The News from the End of the World is my favorite kind of book, bighearted and full of complicated flawed characters stumbling through love and life, making hard choices, making mistakes, and making the reader fall in love with every one of them. I loved this novel!”
—Ann Hood, author of The Book that Matters Most
"With wonderfully crafted characters and expert pacing, Miller has written the kind of narrative that readers crave: a beautifully written, hard-to put-down story that will stay with readers long after the book has been closed." —BOOKLIST
“Immersive… The unique landscape of Cape Cod in the offseason sets the stage for Miller’s poignant, fast-paced family drama. Told in alternating points of view, this gripping novel gets to the heart of the familial trust, independence, and the struggle to overcome the past in order to forge a happier future.”—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“In The News from the End of the World, Emily Jeanne Miller deftly shows how lifetimes can be contained in four days, how memories inhabit a place, and how returning home is always to confront oneself. The characters in this novel consistently surprised me; they find grace in quiet moments, forgiveness when least expected. And it’s all so beautifully written that by the end I felt as if I had lived in this town my whole life, and could walk its haunted streets.”
—Peter Rock, author of My Abandonment
“Emily Jeanne Miller’s The News from the End of the World recalls Tolstoy’s line that 'every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,' an idea less tragic than simply true; shared pain is what solders us. This is a book about the soldering of one family, about the love between brothers and sisters and fathers and daughters all written in heartbreaking, true and gorgeous prose.”
—Lea Carpenter, author of Eleven Days
“Emily Jeanne Miller is a master storyteller. In her brilliant The News from the End of the World, she summons a way of seeing reminiscent of Virginia Woolf: the male characters are as vivid as the female, and as their stories unfold, you cannot look away. This moving and deeply satisfying novel weaves several stories over a New England weekend, without one false note. I will be thinking about the Lake family for a long time.”
—Robert Bausch, author of Far as the Eye Can See and A Hole in the Earth
About the Author
EMILY JEANNE MILLER worked as a journalist for several western newspapers before earning an MS from the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Montana and an MFA from the University of Florida in Gainesville. Her short stories have appeared in the Portland Review and the North American Review, andshe has been a resident at Yaddo and at the Vermont Studio Center. She lives in Washington, D.C.
Top customer reviews
I am sincerely excited to have discovered, for us, a new author with such subtle, masterful storytelling talents. Writing is such a high pressure environment and I hate to be the catalyst that amps up that pressure, but.......... I am dying to see what she'll do next.