Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Guest Post: Randy Sue Coburn author of A Better View of Paradise

Randy Sue Coburn, author of the book A Better View of Paradise, stopped by to share with us a piece she wrote.

The Father-Daughter Bond
in A Better View of Paradise

by Randy Sue Coburn

It’s my belief that before being written, a book gathers inside its author, much like a collection of treasured objects. My new novel, A Better View of Paradise, started gathering with my father’s death. I had focused so much on mothers and daughters with my last novel, Owl Island, and when it came time to write another, there was nothing I wanted to explore so much as the father-daughter bond’s profound impact on a girl’s life, the template it sets for later relationships with men.

Like Hank—the terminally ill father in A Better View—my dad was a lifelong Cubs fan, and in the fall of 2003, when it looked like the Cubs had their best shot at the World Series in many years, I knew it was probably his last chance to see his team go the distance. And like Stevie, Hank’s daughter, I secretly hoped that Cubs wins would act like some kind of magic elixir, strengthening my father’s spirit and extending his life. Which is not quite so insane as it sounds, when Wrigley Field is your father’s only church of the resurrection.

Of course, the Cubs didn’t make it that year, and of course, they broke our hearts. But then, in a certain sense the Cubs and their fans are involved in a kind of tragic love affair. So it wasn’t much of a stretch to intertwine their 2003 death spiral with that of a difficult, demanding father who has trouble expressing all the love for his daughter that he feels.

Although I invented the details of Hank’s professional and familial life, he’s my father’s emotional twin. When you grow up with a father like that, there’s a confidence from knowing you’ve got a strong fighter in your corner, and you’ve absorbed those skills. You’ve also got someone who believes in your ability to make it on your merits, which is terrific reinforcement. One of my most poignant memories is learning to ride a two-wheeler bike with my dad running alongside, holding onto the seat, and then launching me with a push when he could tell I’d found my balance.

But as my hardnosed father liked to say, “there’s no such thing as an un-mixed blessing,” and no small measure of conflict comes with absorbing the idea that love is something you earn by performing. When that conflict gets transferred to romantic relationships, look out—it’s never to the good.

For Stevie, for me, for so many daughters of Hank-like men who do so much to calibrate us to achieve, the challenge is to bring masculine and feminine energies into better balance, to expand constricted notions of intimacy and life’s possibilities. Pulling that off is a lot of work. But the result, in my humble opinion, is an un-mixed blessing—an exception, perhaps, that proves my father’s rule.

About A Better View of Paradise:

Dramatic, moving, and exquisitely written, A Better View of Paradise explores the tender bond between fathers and daughters, ponders the delicate nature of healing, and celebrates the redemptive power of forgiveness and love.

Thirty-six-year-old Stevie Pollack has come into her own as a celebrated landscape architect. Her designs, famed for their evocative natural beauty, reflect her upbringing amid the splendor of Hawai‘i. But when critics blast her latest efforts and her boyfriend abruptly ends their relationship, Stevie seeks solace in her roots among the dazzling flowers, and comforting traditions of the islands and their calming waters. Still, in the back of her mind, Hawai‘i holds troubling memories of a childhood with Hank, her emotionally distant father, and a reserved British mother.

Despite her irascible father’s presence, the trip home promises Stevie a welcome departure from her trials on the mainland. But the shocking news that Hank is dying forces the pair’s reunion into high gear. As father and daughter attempt to rekindle their bond, Stevie discovers sides of Hank she never knew, including family secrets that have shaped their lives. And what started as a holiday escape for the beleaguered architect becomes a chance for transformation, one as exciting as it is uncertain. Inspired by her father’s insight, and energized by the attentions of an attractive local veterinarian, Stevie learns to surrender her inhibitions and seize the day.

About Randy Sue Coburn:

Randy Sue Coburn is a former newspaper reporter whose articles and essays have been published in numerous national magazines. She is the author of Owl Island and Remembering Jody, and her screenplays include Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, the critically acclaimed Cannes Film Festival selection that received five Independent Spirit Award nominations, including Best Screenplay. She lives in Seattle. You can visit Randy Sue Coburn’s website at www.randysuecoburn.com.


Diane said...

I can't wait to read this book. I picked it up from the library a few days ago. Great interview. I LOVE the cover.

Lisa Rusczyk said...

Ms. Coburn - sounds like your Dad was a lot like mine. Your writing at the beginning of the post makes me want to buy your book. You have a great way with words.

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