I read this book years ago, back when I worked at a bookstore and it was a popular book club pick. We had stacks of it on the table by the door, and it always caught my eye as I swept crepe myrtle leaves from the tiles before closing up for the night. The main character was my age, 23, and engaged, as I was. That’s where our similarities ended, but it wasn’t our similarities that caught my interest—it was the compelling, gut-wrenching premise: that while her feelings were cooling toward her fiancĂ©, he broke his neck in an accident and became paralyzed.

The story is sad in many places, and I don’t usually gravitate toward sad. But this week I stood, looking at my bookcase, knowing I needed help with my WIP. It’s “finished” at around 40,000 words…meaning I’ve got to add in all those details I tend to skim over while drafting. The problem is, if the details don’t pop into my head while drafting, I’m not always sure where to add them later, or why. I first picked up a different book, but the first few pages didn’t offer the help I needed. Then I spotted this one, and without even opening it up, I knew I’d found my help. The details Packer weaves into the story are not only for show. They echo the book’s themes of guilt and memory, and they evoke the character and her struggles while they’re doing all their other jobs of setting the scene, grounding the reader, and sounding pretty.

I have to turn my revised manuscript back in to my mentor…actually, yesterday (I’m writing this post ahead of time…procrastinating on the WIP, if I’m honest). So I don’t have time to read the whole novel and incorporate into my manuscript all that I’m learning about flashbacks, backstory, and details. I don’t have time—at least not this time around. But I’ll still be soaking it in, and wondering how I can apply these ideas to this manuscript and others.

Do you have books you turn to for help on specific areas of craft? Maybe we could create a list of novels for writers to read when they’re looking for help and/or inspiration.

(Ha! While searching for the cover image, I discovered it's been made into a Lifetime movie! I wonder if it's any good. Something to watch to celebrate turning in my WIP?)


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