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The Song Remains the Same Hardcover – April 12, 2012
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The Amazon Book Review
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Emily Giffin: Like me, you had a different career before you started writing novels. What made you take the leap into writing full-time?
Allison Winn Scotch: To be honest, I’m not sure that I had an actionable plan… I always loved writing in school, and I guess I was always decent at it, but whenever anyone told me to pursue it as a profession, I just thought, “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. How does one even begin to make a living as a writer?!?” In my early twenties, I muddled through a variety of jobs, trying to figure out what would make me happy. I dabbled in PR, and while that didn’t make me happy (at all), it did lead to an Internet job doing some copyediting and article writing that eventually led me to other clients and then to a pretty healthy career as a magazine writer. Again, as I said, none of this was particularly well mapped-out. After about seven years writing for magazines, I wanted to flex a new muscle, so I tried fiction. And I wrote a terribly, terribly bad book. It never sold to a publisher (thank goodness!), but it lit a spark inside me, and from there, I kept going, tried again, and wrote the manuscript that eventually became my debut. But what about you? You’re a former lawyer--how did you make this leap?
EG: I discovered that supreme misery can be motivating. Although I loved law school (I think I could be happy being a student forever), I knew virtually from my first day as an attorney at a large New York City firm that I had chosen the wrong career. I made a five-year plan to pay back my loans and get out. In the meantime, I wrote a young adult novel (on the weekends and while I should have been billing GE!). Like your first book, mine was pretty lame, but also like yours, it gave me the courage to write the next one. Secretly, writing fiction was always my dream, ever since I was a little girl.
AWS: I think my love of writing and books also started when I was little. My mom was a teacher, and a love of reading was always encouraged in our house. My parents moved a few years ago and dumped all of my old journals on my doorstep (figuratively, of course!), and I could see how I was actually a writer my whole life, even if I didn’t realize it. (Granted, my journals filled with tales of fifth-grade woe weren’t exactly Pulitzer-ready.)
EG: Speaking of childhoods: Also like me, you are a mom to young children. How do you juggle your time?
AWS: I don’t think my life is probably much different from any other working mom’s. My mornings are spent getting the kids out the door, usually with a few missteps and forgotten items and lost gloves and left-behind homework. My little one is still in pre-K, so I run her to school while my husband takes my son. From there, I dash home, try to squeeze in a workout, and then head upstairs to my office. I write (or procrastinate) for most of the rest of the day, breaking to walk our entitled dog, Pedro, and then wrap up when the kids get home. Pretty mundane, really. Again, I think that like most moms, I try to be organized and on a pretty strict schedule, and if I stick to that, things run fairly smoothly. By that I mean you have to expect the unexpected. People believe that being an author is glamorous, but at least for me, it’s sweatpants and coffee. Is it glamorous for you? And trick question: What’s more exhausting, being a mom or being a writer?
EG: I don’t know what you’re talking about. It is 5:30 a.m., I have one hour before the kids get up for school, and I’m writing in full makeup and gold-glitter Jimmy Choos. . . . Ha. Being a mother and being a writer are both exhausting, and worse, much of the time, I feel mediocre at both. But I think writing is more terrifying, because it’s more public. You make a bad parenting decision, and it’s really only your husband who rubs it in your face. You write a bad book, and it’s really only your husband who will pretend not to notice.
AWS: Ha! Though I will disagree on the parenting decision, I’ve found that grandparents are happy to weigh in, too. (I kid, I kid.)
EG: This book kicks off with the aftermath of a plane crash. Why start there?
AWS: Because I am deathly afraid of plane crashes. I actually have plane-crash dreams when something is bothering me subconsciously. I wake up in the middle of the night and try to assess what I might be freaking out about. The dreams are almost always a sign that I’m stressed over something I’m not dealing with. It’s funny: I didn’t used to be scared of flying at all, and to be sure, I travel a lot. A lot of this is probably tied into motherhood and parenting and mortality, and the idea that life isn’t always in our control. So I guess writing a book in which my heroine survives a crash was my way of taking back some of that control, even if it’s only in my imagination! Where does your initial inspiration come from? How often are you asked if you draw from your real life?
EG: Although I’ve yet to write an autobiographical work, I can definitely see myself in all my protagonists, and of course, like all writers, I draw from my own life experiences. I was an unhappy lawyer like Rachel in Something Borrowed. I had twins like Darcy in Something Blue. Et cetera, et cetera. I probably had the most questions about Ellen in Love the One You’re With, as I had recently moved to Atlanta from London (and New York before that), just as Ellen had. Because Ellen had a difficult time adjusting to the South and was fairly critical of Atlanta, many people (including the local media) assumed that I, too, was a disgruntled transplant. That sort of thing is more likely to happen when you write in the first person.
AWS: Absolutely. I’ve had a very similar experience with Jillian, my protagonist in Time of My Life. I always tell people that while I understand her on an emotional level—and of course, I’ve entertained the question of “what if”--I’m not her and she’s not me. As an author, you try to tap into the well of universal experience and feeling, but you hope you don’t replicate your own life too much.
EG: Again like me, I know that you love all things pop culture. What is it about celebrities that makes us unable to look away?
AWS: Oh man, I don’t know. For me, because I am so exhausted a lot of the time, reading junky magazines or trashy websites is a way to turn off my brain. I will read some gossip site at night in bed on my iPad and have no recollection of it the next day, but evidently it did the trick, because it helped me fall asleep! I also adore quality TV. There’s an escapism to it, sure, but great TV--something like Friday Night Lights--can resonate with you as both a person and a writer. When I was younger, I adored Felicity, and when I started writing, I hoped to convey some of the same themes that the show had explored. And then, of course, there’s the judgment that we make of celebrities, which is maybe the most fun. :) Of course I’d never advocate that same level of judgment in real life, but hey, I’m not above reading US Weekly and turning up my nose at someone’s outfit or romantic entanglement. I’m curious: What do you think makes your own love of pop culture tick? What would you do if you ever met Jennifer Aniston?
EG: Oh my goodness- I loved Felicity, too! What a great show. I was obsessed with whether she should choose Noel or Ben--and my publicist actually gave me the whole series on DVD for my birthday one year. I make no apologies about loving pop culture, either, and Jennifer Aniston is my absolute favorite. I like to think I’d play it cool if I ever had the chance to meet her. I also like to think that I’d have my hair recently highlighted, my nails done, and a great outfit on. That girl is honed to perfection.
AWS: I own the series on DVD, too! And I should tell you that I’ve since interviewed many of the actors from the show, and they are as fantastic as you’d have hoped. Though since both Ben and Noel are equally dreamy in real life, I’ve come no closer to resolving the debate. (Okay, back then, I was fully Team Ben, but now I am older and wiser, and admit that either would do in a pinch.)
EG: Last question: What’s on your bucket list?
AWS: This sounds so masochistic, but I would really love to run a marathon. Every year, we go watch the New York City race, and I say, “I’m definitely going to run it next year.” And then time passes, and naturally, I don’t. Right now, my excuse is that it’s too hard to train with young kids, but maybe once they’re older… I don’t know. We’ll see what my excuse is in another decade. What’s on yours?
EG: To never, ever run a marathon. Finally we differ on something!
Photo Emily Giffin © Deborah Feingold
Photo Allison Winn Scotch © Debbie Winn
"Bestseller Winn Scotch sparkles in her captivating fourth novel. Readers will love Nell and won't be able to put the book down until they know how much of her past she wants to bring into her future." - Publishers Weekly
"Scotch has drawn a fully three-dimensional heroine in Nell, and the story's pacing perfectly mirrors the protagonist's increasing rate of self-discovery. Scotch peppers her chapters with pop-culture and musical references, giving the story a modern, lively feel...a breezy yet introspective examination of one woman's history." -Booklist
"Winn Scotch's novel will cause any reader to daydream about the possibility of starting over and breaking free from the identity we present to the world . . . Allison Winn Scotch shows how sometimes you need to forget the past to remember who you are." - Shelf Awareness
"Scotch (Time of My Life, 2009, etc.) crafts a plausible story, complete with a capable and prickly protagonist, that doesn't resort to any movie-of-the-week amnesia clichés. A dry-eyed modern take on healing and forgiveness." - Kirkus Reviews
"Readers who appreciate women's fiction that investigates serious themes will enjoy Scotch's fine novel. Reading groups will find much to discuss as well." - Library Journal
"Funny, poignant, and absorbing."
-J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine and Commencement
"I can't remember becoming so engrossed in a novel so quickly or feeling so satisfied at the end."
-Elin Hilderbrand, author of The Island
"From the first pages I was hooked. Nell is a heroine you will cheer for; and long remember after finishing the book!"
-Lauren Weisberger, author of The Devil Wears Prada
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Top customer reviews
I loved Nell. I felt for her. I wanted her to learn about herself. Not the rose colored glass version but the real version of who she was before the plane crash. She wants to be someone else before she even knows who she was. As her mother, her sister and her husband recount to her who she was, what she did; something doesn't sit right with her. She enlists a journalist to help her "Free Nell Slattery" and find out the truth of who she is by digging into her past. Of course, it isn't exactly what Nell expects and sends her into a search to find her father. She latches onto the fact that he is the key to finding out who she is. She gets so caught up in that fact that she forgets to live in the moment and to look elsewhere for her answers. Nell uses music to try to reach the memories that are in the recesses of her brain. As she starts to remember, she begins to realize that everyone has their own agenda in her recovery. Perhaps the only one who doesn't have an agenda is Anderson, the Hollywood hunk who survived the crash with her. Although, Anderson is fighting his own demons that he can't quite shake.
The book could have definitely gone in a couple different directions that would have ended up in cliches but it didn't. The focus was on Nell finding out who she was and who she wants to become. The revelations are not what I expected and some of them are heart-wrenching. There is also a lot of humor dispersed throughout the novel, so that it's not so serious and heavy all of the time. It is on this journey to her past where Nell figures out what she wants out of her future. It is true that in order to know yourself, you need to know where you come from but you can't let that affect who want to become. Maybe that is a lesson for all of us: we can't let our past define us.
I'm going a little fan girl here but I adore Allison. I've read all four of her books and this one is her best. Nell was the easiest heroine from her books to like. I can't wait to read whatever she has in store in the future for her readers. If you want a book that moves you, ties in some great music and pop culture then go get yourself a copy of The Song Remains the Same. I think anyone can get something out of this book.
Nell Slattery is in just this position after she and one other person are the only survivors of a plane crash that landed them in Iowa. As she comes to, she remembers nothing and nobody. Who are the people who claim to be her loved ones? Why does nothing they tell her seem to ring true?
Like a nightmare from which she seemingly doesn't awaken, Nell tries to put her life back together, relying on the stories others tell her.
Her mother Indira, her sister Rory, even her friend Samantha--they all seem so supportive, but as the weeks and months creep by, bits and pieces of the real truth begin to surface. What really happened between Nell and her husband Peter? Had the two of them reconciled? Or was there more to the story? What was going on between Rory and Nell that might have brought their art gallery to a close?
And throughout, hovering over Nell's life is the specter of the father who abandoned her. Unwilling to let him go, she believes that finding him again, or at least figuring out what happened in her past, could be the very thing that will fill in the blanks for her.
Told mostly in Nell's first person voice, with occasional third person narratives from others, The Song Remains the Same also unfolded through the music that filled Nell's life, from her younger years to the recent past.
I found myself growing emotional as the deceits of Rory, Peter, and Indira came to light. Applauding Nell's decisions near the end brought closure to this story for me. Four stars.