And can I just say that I'm thrilled that they kept the cover the same as the hardback. Fist pump!
We've been talking about "crones" a bit lately on Jungle Red, and I just want to say that the old woman in my book is anything but.
"Crone" is a scary word, a caricature loaded with negativity. Writing 91-year-old Mina Yetner, the old woman of the novel, I was determined not to make her into that kind of caricature or a joke. I've been fortunate to have several old women in my life who are anti-crone role models. One of them was Freda Touger, my husband's mother, who lived to be 92.
Freda was one of those fortunate people who, though she grew forgetful, did not become feeble-minded. Though she slowed down, she could walk my feet off at the mall. Though she grew less patient, she never became shrill. In fact, she seemed very much the same person a week before she died as she had when I met her twenty-some years earlier.
In short, she aged but she was never turned into a crone -- just an old woman.
To write Mina, I drew a lot on Freda. Like Freda, when Mina was young she worked on one of the top floors of in the Empire State Building. Like Freda, she remembers looking out the 79th floor windows and feeling the building swaying.
To write in Mina's voice, tried remember that Freda told me she felt like she was exactly the same person at the age of 90 that she'd been at 12. So though she's baffled by computers and cell phones, her voice isn't geriatric or enfeebled. Mina's biggest fear is the same as Freda's -- that she'll become a burden. Worse, that she'll lose her marbles and not realize she's lost them.
Every morning, Freda would open the paper to the obituaries and look for people who were older than she. So that's how I opened the book. Making a list of dead people is something I do.
Mina Yetner sat in her living room, inspecting the death notices in the Daily News. She got through two full columns before she found someone older than herself. Mina blew on her tea, took a sip, and settled into her comfortable wing chair. In the next column, nestled among dearly departed strangers, she found Angela Quintanilla, a neighbor who lived a few blocks away.
Angela had apparently died two days ago at just seventy-three. After a “courageous battle.” Probably lung cancer. When Mina had last run into Angela in the church parking lot, she'd been puffing away on a cigarette, so bone thin and jittery that it was a miracle she hadn’t shaken right out of her own skin.So here's my question -- please, share the older women in your life who are neither comic caricatures nor crones.
Mina leaned forward and pulled from the drawer in her coffee table a pen and the spiral notebook that she'd bought years ago up the street at Sparkles Variety. A week after her Henry died, she'd started recording the names of the people she knew who'd taken their leave, beginning with her grandmother, who was the first dead person she'd known. Now four pages of the notebook were filled. Most of the names conjured a memory. A face. Sometimes a voice. Sometimes nothing -- those especially upset her. Forgetting and being forgotten terrified Mina almost more than death.