Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Karen Halvorsen Schreck

Karen Halvorsen Schreck is the author of the historical novel Sing For Me, which was praised in a Publishers Weekly starred review. She received her doctorate in English and Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and now teaches writing and literature.

Her new novel is Broken Ground.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Halvorsen Schreck's reply:
I just finished reading Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty. I initially picked it up because soon after the New Year, a long-time friend of mine, the actor Jeffrey Nordling, shared that he’d landed a role in the upcoming HBO production of the novel, optioned by, and starring, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. “Happy 2016!” I wrote to Jeff when I heard the news. “Right?” he wrote back. He also mentioned that he liked the novel a lot. I trust Jeff’s judgment. Also, I was curious in a rather puerile way. (Will he fit the part?) Plus, I’d just finished reading everything I could get my hands on by the English author, Jojo Moyes. Lots of reasons to dig in. So I did.

I soon traded my curiosity for total absorption. Jeff’s a great actor—of course he’ll fit the part! But Big Little Lies! What a great read! Liane Moriarty! Who knew? A lot of people, obviously, including Jeff, Nicole, Reese, bloggers and reviewers, and whoever calculates the numbers for the New York Times Book Review. Just not me. Until now.

I’m already about twenty pages into one of her earlier novels, The Husband’s Secret.

Here’s what I liked about Big Little Lies:
  1. It’s the kind of big, thick book endorsed with words like: “juicy,” “unpredictable,” “impossible to put down.” Those endorsements are spot on, so on a very basic level: that, right there. It seems like a peach, but—surprise!—it’s more of a mango, and it’s can’t-put-downably delicious.
  2. Moriarty makes terrific use of shifting points of view. She moves deftly between three main perspectives—three friends, very different women whose lives are revealed as entwined in surprising and significant ways. Moriarty also weaves in the viewpoints of less developed characters to create a kind of running debate/commentary/Greek chorus that lends momentum to the narrative, heightens the satire and humor, and complicates the plot. And she works with shifts in time. So just when you think you know what’s going on, or might be able to predict what’s to come, a secondary character makes some crack and there goes the apple cart of assumption.
  3. Speaking of satire, I’m not a particularly big fan of it when it’s cold and bloodless. But there’s heat in this book—a lot of wholeheartedness and compassion—even as the pages are packed with irony and wry social commentary. Big Little Lies is a smart book that is also a wise book, a piece of contemporary fiction that embraces a broad cast of characters in the way of certain nineteenth century novels.
A Happy 2016 read, indeed.
Visit Karen Halvorsen Schreck's website.

My Book, The Movie: Broken Ground.

--Marshal Zeringue