Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fiction Imitates Life?

Title: The Fiction Class
Author:  Susan Breen
Publisher: Plume
ISBN: 978-0452289109
Pages: 296

In the backroom of a used bookstore, I was browsing, not intending to purchase anything. But, my hand touched The Fiction Class and my eye was drawn to the cover.  I left the store with the book (yes, I paid for it).  I related to the main character with her aspirations of being published and her struggle to care (both physically and emotionally) for her aging mother in a nursing home.  It hit close to home.

Arabella writes in her small apartment in New York, while making a living editing other’s work and teaching a fiction class.  A new semester begins, yet it is similar to semesters before – a class of people who want to write for a variety of personal reasons, but many don’t want to commit to the hard work of writing and revising.  And, after class, Arabella has to visit her ailing mother in the nursing home. Vera doesn’t always welcome Arabella and they have a complicated past.  But, Vera reveals that she has a story to tell and wants her daughter to help her finish it.  Vera’s story is a thinly veiled retelling of her own life, but by reading it, Arabella begins to see her mother as a person, rather than her mother.  Arabella brings the story to her fiction class, and she also begins to open herself to the students she teaches.  Both of these changes help her re-define herself separate from her childhood narrative and bring closure to many open wounds.

Although the book is not a how-to book, the author inserts the writing exercises that Arabella brings to her class – and some of them are useful.  And, though there were many tears through the book (from me, not the characters) the ending was quite satisfying. 

The author has a website for the book, which includes the writing exercises here: