I received an advanced copy of this book from the author. I invite you to read my review, learn more about the author and enter to win your own copy. Thanks for stopping by!
Sometimes we just muddle through our lives without ever reflecting on our happiness, or lack thereof. It takes a catalyst for our neat little world to be rocked to its core and shake us out of our comfort zone. This is exactly what happened to Gillian when a fire destroyed the home she shared with her husband. They walked away with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Ellen Harger’s descriptions of fire and its far-reaching destruction form some of the most eloquent prose in this book.
In the first part of the book, Ellen Harger shows us her talent in the writing of emotional and though-provoking images. In the months that follow the fire, Gillian is depressed and does not seem to be recovering from the trauma of the fire. She realizes, at this point, that she has never really been happy in her marriage and she wants out. She asks her husband for a divorce, makes some new friends and tries to forge an independent and happier life.
As far as the second half of the book is concerned, Ellen Harger proves that she can also write funny, clever and witty dialogue. Gillian tries new activities and makes some friends who bring her out of her boring existence. At this point in the story, Gillian has started a blog where she is able to write her feelings through a medium in which her identity will be kept safe. She signs off on her blog as “Mrs. Jones” and fully expects that no one will ever find her musings in the vast expanse of the Internet. Until one day, Mr. Write responds.
As Gillian tries new things and forms new relationships, she is also developing feelings for her new internet friend. But can someone she met on the Internet be trustworthy? The tension building up to what she will do as far as her blog and “Mr. Write” are concerned is the most entertaining aspect of the book.
If you want a cozy and interesting book, mixed with a little mystery then “The Anonymous Blog of Mrs. Jones” is a great story to put on your “to read” list. It is a book about finding happiness, moving on after a tragedy, and making an emotional connection in a romantic relationship. Each blog post in the book also links to a live blog, which I found to be a unique aspect of the book and one which I have not previously encountered.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer?
When I was very young, I had imaginary friends. Being quite shy, I lived in my head, transforming ordinary things into whatever pleased me. Stairs became an RV. Teddy bears talked back. But I was also raised by two readers who were raised by readers. We had books everywhere. Even now, the furnace room in my mom’s house has a huge bookcase (floor to ceiling) and it’s doubled-up. The attic keeps the books no one wants but we can’t let go of. My own collection is quite small because my books and their stories were lost in a fire in 2005. So many memories were attached. Books can be more than the words between their pages. I bought a copy of “The Lord of the Rings” in Firenza, Italy. Every time I looked at it, I returned to the book store where we met. A book I must replace my father bought for me while on a Temporary Duty assignment. “The Quiet House,” by Otto Coontz is a lovely tale, but the illustrations! Oh, how they made my heart sing.
Another influence: my family loves to recount stories around the dinner table. While I don’t recall particular gifts, I remember nights around the table. Dinner long gone, no one in a rush to get away, we told familiar tales and belly-laughed like it was the first time. Each story was uttered with a special cadence, a particular inflection unique to the teller. The tale I tell with practiced flourish is about my first book report and how well my mother handled my freak-out. It’s also the story of me breaking out of a bitter shell to become the ham I really am.
Life is full of turning points. And it’s in the retelling that emblazons the moment onto our hearts. It’s the retelling that reaches out and holds someone’s hand as if to say, “I understand.”
2. The imagery of fire is very prominent in your book. How and why did you choose this as the catalyst for a change in Gillian’s life?
The fire is autobiographical. My life had a significant before and after, and I learned what it meant to wail with emotional agony.
A careless glance into my memory can conjure the moment when I drove upon a car swarmed by fire. It was the first flame I witnessed after The Fire and it wrecked me. My limbs still tremble with the potency of hysteria, the experience burned into my bones. And yet, my memories of our fire aren’t as intense. I was numb from the destruction and loss, so I believe the unexpected encounter released pent up pain.
I didn’t plan to give fire to Mrs. Jones. I intended to write about divorce, but the fact is, for both Mrs. Jones and me, the two experiences are linked. So I let her tell parts of my life and I in turn, shared it with utmost honesty.
3. The idea of having a blog and posts that correspond with the book is very clever. Why did you chose to have Gillian meet “Mr. Write” through a blog?
It was the original impetus, but the inspiration came from within and without. It’s hard to say which was first.
For two years after our fire, I was lost within my thoughts. Eventually, I created a fake blog to write a romantic story between two people kept a part. It was an affair and I found myself unsympathetic. Still, I loved the premise and kept chasing it. Looking back, I believe I had to find love again before I could write this story. My husband Jeremy and I never had a blog, but we wrote emails about trust through analogies of armor and dragons. I used fragments of our written exchanges to create a few of the blog posts.
The outside influence was the glorious series by Nick Bantock about Griffin & Sabine. These books are works of art and it was the act of pulling letters out of envelopes and the mysterious connection between Griffin and Sabine that slipped beneath my conscious brain to act as muse. I loved the interactive nature of physical letters and the manner of revealing self to another through words. Using a blog, I tapped the secretive exhibition of the internet and mixed it with blind confession.
4. What is the best book you have read this year that you would recommend to my readers?
The best book I’ve read in 2014? I adored Suanne Laqueur’s “The Man I Love.” It’s an exquisite novel, and one of the few (in a long time) to escort me across that special plane where a reader becomes one with the story. The writing fell away, taking with it bills and daily pests, so I could become involved with Erik and Daisy. As romantic as the story was, it’s so much more than a romance. It’s an experience.
5. Are you going to continue Gillian’s story in another book? What are you working on now?
At this time, Gillian is sated. I, on the other hand, am having affairs with three stories.
One predates Mrs. Jones and has structure, characters and needs to be edited. I’m finally brave enough to tackle “Oak Land.” This novella is set on a train and explores philosophical themes through a photographer’s lens.
Another has brewed for a couple of years, but only after I gave it a journal and chronicled the various thoughts dashing around my head did I learn how much I love this novel. It’s focused on the relationship between an aunt and the niece she raised. Like my first novel, it’s a love letter to the Midwest, but the setting won’t be as important as it was in “Strong Enough.” Once again I’ll dip my pen into experience, using my own journey away from, and back to, the Midwest to tell a tale of maturing. The story has recently rejected the working title and is just, “That One.”
The third is a challenge. It’s a comical foray into paranormal, Ellen style. I’ve created a myth based upon several similar, cross-cultural tales and with humor, I’m exploring sexuality in “Wanderlust.”
Which will I complete first? It’s hard to say some days, but I’m eager to take “Oak Land” to the next level.
Thank you so much for such wonderful questions. I’ve really enjoyed answering.
Please visit Ellen’s website to learn more about her books: www.ellenharger.com
Ellen is generously giving away a copy of her book. Please click on this link to enter:
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