Recently I asked van Arsdale about what she was reading. Her reply:
I don’t know why, but when I started Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye years ago, I didn’t get past the first quarter. It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy it—I did. It may have been the usual excuse, which is that I had so much reading for work that I couldn’t read for pleasure. In any case, I picked it up again recently, because I love Margaret Atwood and I felt ashamed of myself for not having finished that novel the first time. It has now established itself on a short list of my favorite books of all time. Sentence by sentence I have never felt such suspense, such terror that something awful was about to happen. Atwood alleviates this terror by showing us her protagonist in the present—we know she survived—but that makes it just bearable. And what is her protagonist threatened by? Not a rival empire or some otherworldly force of evil. No, she’s a grade school girl threatened by other grade school girls. And it’s terrifying. Each perfectly-shaped sentence carries so much implicit threat and certainty of doom that I’m finding it the most propulsive reading experience I’ve had in a long time.Visit Peternelle van Arsdale's website.