One of the books we postergirlz recommended this month is Lisa Shanahan's wonderful novel My Big Birkett, which was published in the USA as The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It. (Make sure you look it up both ways when you visit your local bookstore or library!) Lisa recently shared the backstory of this book with us here at readergirlz:
I first began writing my novel The Sweet, Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It during a heartbreakingly difficult time in my own family. In the late nineties, my older sister gave birth to triplets, only to be diagnosed days later with cancer. Months after that, my dad was also diagnosed with cancer too. Then followed this extraordinary year, where we had the intense pleasure of watching the triplets who were so little, grow fatter and funnier and more content - saying first words, eating their first solids, taking their first steps, embracing life - but also the agony of watching my dad and sister get sicker and sicker. One of the hardest things about that time was coping with the extreme, sudden swings between joy and sadness, nearly every single day.
Although none of these actual events appear in my novel, in some strange way, the emotional texture of that time - the tenderness, the fear, the confusion and even the happiness got woven into a story about a girl called Gemma Stone, who is in the middle of one of the most difficult years of her life too. She is the one trying to find the courage to say the big 'I do' to everything this life offers; her wacky, eccentric family, the charismatic Raven De Head, her sister's bizarre fiancé, bridesmaids and in-laws, school, drama, Nick Lloyd - the whole bittersweet glory of loving people up close.
I hoped to write Gemma's story in a way that would make a reader both laugh and cry, sometimes almost in the same breath because this was something I experienced in my own family. Emma Quay, an Australian illustrator that I often work with, once said to me about my books, "You have a whole gallery of flawed, imperfect families." To which I could only laugh and agree because this is the place from which I write.
- Lisa Shanahan