Best-selling author Joyce Maynard’s recently released novel, After Her, is a riveting mystery inspired by the true-life story of the Mount Tamalpais Trailside Killer. Our reviewer raves: "After Her perfectly captures the essence of California in the late 1970s, as a young woman explores her sexuality, her ties to her family and ultimately, how her own innocence was shattered." (Read our full review here.)
We were curious about the books Maynard has been reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites:
It is one of the challenges of my own writing life that when I’m writing, I have to be careful what I read, or I can lose my focus on my own story. So I need to limit my reading to the voices of writers whose language and concerns echo the kinds I’m immersed in, myself. Most recently—while on the home stretch of work on my novel, After Her, I chose to revisit two novels I’d read and loved before, and a recent novel by a writer I deeply admire. They all write, as I do, about people living unglamorous lives in small-town America, and the despair, as well as the quiet heroism, of seemingly ordinary characters.
AWAIT YOUR REPLY
By Dan Chaon
For anyone who believes that a story can’t function both as a literary work and as a thriller, I’ve got three words: Read Dan Chaon. I’ll confess, I first read this novel when it came out a few years ago, but reread it when I was writing my new novel, After Her—for inspiration. Await Your Reply follows the journey—geographic, and interior—of a girl named Lucy Lattimore, on the run from her small Ohio town with her former history teacher. They only get as far as a deserted motel in Nebraska, next to a dried-up reservoir before things start looking bad. Then worse. If you loved "Breaking Bad," as I did, you’ll find a similar dark eye on the American wasteland in this gorgeous novel. (Read our review of Await Your Reply.)
By Kent Haruf
Once again, I’m naming a novel I chose to reread, during my own work on my new novel, because it captures so beautifully the voices of young characters—hopeful and innocent, in a world filled with corruption and trouble. I love the spareness of Haruf’s prose, and his ear for the voices of his characters. It’s a deceptively simple story—filled with compassion and unblinking honesty. (Read our review of Plainsong.)
THE ODDS: A LOVE STORY
By Stewart O’Nan
I’ve been a big fan of Stewart O’Nan for years, but just got caught up with his latest, published last year. This one follows a down-and-out couple (their house on the brink of foreclosure, their marriage coming apart) as they check into a bridal suite at a motel in Niagara Falls to bet everything they have on the spin of the roulette wheel. Having myself chosen to tell a larger story through the events of a single long weekend (mine was a Labor Day weekend; O’Nan’s is Valentine’s Day), I wanted to study how a writer I deeply admire handled a story as complex as the crisis of a couple’s marriage through the lens of such a few crucial days. (Read our review of The Odds and a Q&A with O'Nan about the book.)
Thank you, Joyce! What do you think, readers? Will you be reading After Her or checking out any of Joyce's recommendations?