Wednesday, February 6, 2013

#sage'sblogtours Present The Second Daughter By J. Jeffrey. Interview and review of this remarkable book.

The Second Daughter
By J. Jeffrey


            You try turning out all right after you overhear your mother wishing you hadn’t been born.
            It had started out well. Umbrellas tangled. A storybook romance followed. A wonderful wedding. A beautiful, sweet first daughter. They were complete, a family, happy.
            And then they went and had another daughter.
            Her charming and witty father Theodore starts disappearing, then worse, starts coming back. Her once allegedly sweet older sister Regina angrily resents her, and the sisters are at constant war. Her mother Helen is so busy what-iffing about the life she might have had that she overlooks the life she is actually having. Everyone blames Debra for pretty much everything as the family slowly, then quickly, then one day explosively disintegrates. Along the way there are secrets and lies, heartbreaks and betrayals, plus the dramatic unexpected death of a central character at a pivotal moment. The now young woman finds herself living awkwardly alone with her embittered mother when the phone rings—and her mother’s secret past suddenly crashes back into the present.
            Their life may be about to change forever; or rather, perhaps, revert back to what it should have been all along.
            But not exactly because of that phone call, as it turns out.
            Because of the remarkable second daughter. For what Debra Gale has is unyielding determination. What she has is an irrepressible capacity to love. 
            And now at last what she has is a chance.
            The complex dynamics of a changing family. Mother, daughters, sisters, and the father who both divides and unifies them. That dramatic unexpected death, plus more than the ordinary amount of banana cream pie. Welcome to The Second Daughter: a funny but poignant, unusual but beautiful love story.


Biography for J. Jeffrey

J. Jeffrey stands about six foot three and likes poetry. He has been known to climb the occasional mountain and tame the occasional lion. He sings opera as an amateur but is trained as a masseur, and he is extremely partial to his wife’s green tea perfume. He drinks too much coffee, and gets lost a lot. Two words: Florence, Italy. Pastry for breakfast, over the crossword puzzle, preferably after noon. Soup for lunch, preferably late afternoon, over another puzzle (the first having been solved). His favorite drink (after coffee) is red wine. He knows a word or two but will not play scrabble. Regrettably, he believes he might be happy if only you would think him as funny as he thinks he is. But most importantly, he is not to be trusted. He writes biographies full of lies, or are they novels full of truths? Such a fine line.

Interview Questions for J. Jeffrey, The Second Daughter

1. Where did the idea come from for the book?

The Second Daughter grew out of an image I had one day when I was yelling at my kids: that later on I might regret how much I yelled at them (even when they most definitely deserve it, I might add!). All the pressures of parenting young children can easily turn you into somebody you don’t really want to be, and I suddenly imagined realizing, only years later, what I might be losing by giving in to those pressures. But while it grew out of that image it’s also about a lot more. The Second Daughter is also about the complex dynamics of a growing but disintegrating family, where the disintegration is fueled both by a mismatch between the parents and a mismatch between their two daughters. I happen to know quite a number of families with mismatched spouses (I’m sure we all do!) and a surprising number of women who did not get along with their sisters (at least while growing up). But finally it’s also about the sense of humor one can have about growing up through such a situation. That just comes out of my own general worldview: the world is filled with darkness but at the same time, at least when it’s appreciated through a certain point of view, it can be pretty funny. A kind of dark humor, I guess; or maybe a light seriousness.

2. What genre(s) does your book fall under? 

Contemporary fiction, literary fiction, women’s fiction.

3. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Theodore Gale (the father): Oliver Platt, but with a full beard
Helen Gale (the mother): Audrey Hepburn. (You didn’t specify if they had to be
            living actors!)
Regina Gale (older sister): Maggie Gyllenhaal
Debra Gale (the “second daughter”): Natalie Portman

4. What is the one-sentence (or so) synopsis of your book?

A few choices here!

            (a) You try turning out all right after you overhear your mother wishing you hadn’t been born.

            (b) What Debra Gale has is unyielding determination. What she has is an irrepressible capacity to love. 
            And now at last what she has is a chance.

            (c) A funny but poignant, unusual but beautiful love story.

            (d) The complex dynamics of a changing family. Mother, daughters, sisters, and the father who both divides and unifies them. A dramatic unexpected death, plus a fair amount of banana cream pie. Welcome to The Second Daughter: a funny but poignant, unusual but beautiful love story.

5. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?


6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I first spent several months interviewing a number of people about their mismatched parents and a number of women about their complicated relationships with their sisters. But once I sat down to write, the very first draft came quickly -- maybe three months or so. Of course that draft was extremely rough, and was only the first of several more very extensive revisions.

7. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Some that come to mind include Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You and Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask, or Home Land. These are similar to The Second Daughter in terms of tone, style, and humor. Lorrie Moore’s stories (Birds of America) come to mind too, since The Second Daughter aims to achieve her nearly perfect balance of humor with emotional depth. Other comparisons come from movies: The Second Daughter is sort of like The Royal Tenenbaums meeting The Squid and the Whale meeting Hannah and (one of) Her Sisters … One reviewer of the novel on Amazon said The Second Daughter was like Jane Austen having written Revolutionary Road instead of Richard Yates; another reviewer compared its characters to those of Jonathan Franzen’s (The Corrections) and Dickens. And I swear I didn’t pay either of those reviewers!

8. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The most important thing, I think, is its balance of humor and depth, of humor and poignancy. One Amazon reviewer said the novel had him “laughing through the pain but weeping with the joy,” which has it about right, or at least that’s what I was aiming for. The Second Daughter also turns out, in the end, to be a rather unusual love story, or rather two different love stories—though just which love stories they are is something of a surprise. And finally there’s a bit of a mystery element too, concerning precisely who is telling the story. So you’ve got humor, depth, love, and mystery -- all in one nice, inexpensive volume!

My 4 Star Review

Since this is a tongue in the cheek novel with an in depth look to the Gale family allow me the time to prepare you before hand to get comfortable because you will be there for awhile.

Preparation for reading this book
Several good cups of coffee or tea or if you prefer your favorite bottle of wine. Nestling into your favorite chair without any interruptions and all depending on the weather make sure you are cuddled, snuggled and pampered with candy or chocolates well in reach to grab and pop into your mouth without looking up.

At times I thought the book had just too many detailed episodes of the Gale family life. Drawing you into their everyday life with some humor, a frown, sadness and the occasional love spurs. A family engrossed in their own ways that you get the feeling that the rest of the world did not exist beside Riverbend. 
And the world did progress as the author subtle will let you into the timeline with quirky drops of what is happening outside so that you do indeed realize that life did move on as the story progressed seemingly unnoticed by the characters. 
But yet as the story unfolds, continues and mature you understand the in depth look of this normal but yet dysfunctional family all thrown together on a rainy day when two people brushed against each other at a payphone booth. Met later on for coffee and got married. Having children, received a house, went on vacations, got animals frequently, went through the every day pains of growing up. Have affairs, not committed. Living in an illusional world of grandeur always reaching for the promised land but yet through wrong choices missed it.
We meet up with Helen and Theodore Gale who met each other. Each character already set in their own thinking not willing to compromise. Helen the perfect elegant gal that could put a gourmet supper before Theodore who simply loved to eat. Doing everything for her as she likes. Pampering and loving her. But the continues stares and snide remarks that was also inherited by Regina and Debra allowed the love to disappear altogether. Until nothing was left of this once loved and adored family.
Theodore a professor and writer in training loved everything about Helen. Allowing her to be herself but yet also placing the brakes on her due to his own lack of commitments. Looking for excuses, being absent in the most important moments of their lives. But most of all love to eat and spend money that he did not earn. 
The definite turn of their oh so perfect life was with the arrival of the second daughter Debra. A very emotional child that craved attention but yet never received it because of various reasons illustrated throughout the book. Always second in thought, always at the tail end off things being disregarded by mother and sister and later on by the father as well. 
Debra although not perceived as the center of this family's life was the center of the whole story. Standing out as a woman who cared deeply and loved deeply. Every animal that was brought home during her growing up years she cared for with absolute devotion but manipulate events allowed that the poor things always ended up dead or lost. 
We see this same character when she cared for Helen right up to the end. Never leaving her, setting her own life on hold to care for the one person that was not capable of loving her from the day she was born. You see how she mature through the trails she had to endure stepping up as the adult at the tender age of twenty one. To be blessed with a man who see past all the tears and worries a heart of gold. Who loves her unconditionally. 

Regina although the favorite child left home the moment the opportunity came to never return. Her cold stares and snuff remarks building a wall between the two sisters. Theodore the absent non committed father who would find love in different places always seeking for the next big thing. Then there was Eddie Love larger then life but at the end with feet of clay. Melvin who loved Helen from the day they met, pouring out his affections on her. Bennie the neglected father of Theodore who loved his girls always walking the extra mile to help them. Extremely emotional with a loving heart. The characters complimenting the main characters into a believable and entertaining well written story of love as relationships develop continuously.  

The choices of actors portraying the roles is well chosen and once I can agree with.

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