Saturday, June 3, 2017

Kiera Stewart

Kiera Stewart is the author of three novels: Fetching, How to Break a Heart, and The Summer of Bad Ideas.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Stewart's reply:
I’m currently living in Granada, Nicaragua, and took a last minute trip to Leon, another city a few hours up the Pacific coast. I hadn’t put a lot of thought into the trip, so I soon found myself alone in a new city where I didn’t really know anyone. And with nothing to read.

Books in English aren’t incredibly plentiful in Nicaragua, but Leon is a college town. Luckily, there was a used bookstore a walkable distance away. My biggest surprise was the cost of the books. In the states, we take for granted that we can get a used paperback for under a dollar. Here, in this used book store in Leon, the loved-and-left Danielle Steel and James Patterson paperbacks were selling for the equivalent of $5/US! But still, I sorted through the stacks and was thrilled to find one of my favorite books, by one of my favorite authors: Open House by Elizabeth Berg.

I read this novel more than a decade ago, so while I’ve forgotten all the details, I remember really enjoying the experience. And I’m happy to report that I still do. Open House is a story about a woman who is adjusting to an unexpected post-divorce life, raising an eleven-year-old son (Travis), and taking on boarders to help pay the mortgage. Here’s one of my favorite excerpts so far, in which, although devastated about her husband’s leaving, she is daydreaming about having a more elegant, more sophisticated life without him:
I go into the family room…and turn the stereo on to the classical station. Ah, Mozart. Well, maybe not Mozart. But close enough. It’s one of those guys. I’ll take a music appreciation class. Somewhere. Then, getting ready to sit down to dinner with Travis some night I’ll say, “Some Verdi, perhaps?”

“That’s an idea,” he’ll answer. “But maybe Vivaldi would be better with lamb.”

“You know, you’re absolutely right,” I’ll say. I will have taught him this exquisite discrimination. As a famous man, Travis will say to the interviewer, “My mother changed wonderfully when my father left us. Our circumstances actually improved. Naturally I owe her everything.”
I love so many things about this book. I love the vulnerability and sincerity of her characters: I love the gentle and funny honesty in her writing. Somehow, every time I read one of her novels, my heart grows a little.

I guess that’s one of the great things about good writing, like Berg’s. It gives us the opportunity to experience a situation through someone else’s head and heart. Good writing makes it easy to feel things from the inside-out – via a character’s thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. And personally, I believe this leads to a deep sense of human connection and compassion in a way that no other medium can quite deliver.

If you haven’t read any of Elizabeth Berg’s novels*, you’re in luck because there’s a lot of great ones to choose from. You will probably laugh, you might possibly cry, and you’ll very likely end the book with the satisfying feeling that you’ve made a new friend.

*Available in new and used bookstores all over the world. And totally worth the Nicaraguan sticker shock.
Visit Kiera Stewart's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kiera Stewart & Casper.

--Marshal Zeringue