When we moved to Iowa five years ago, we left our dashing urbanite lifestyle behind so that The Lovely Becky could hone her fiction writing and publish a novel--a lifelong dream of hers. Seeing her book reviewed in the New York Times Sunday Book Review was part of that dream.
Today, that dream is a reality. The NYT reviewed Icebergs, giving her a full-page review.
The review is mixed, but it said a lot of nice things about the book. The reviewer is dead wrong about her prose. Like Big-Pussy-Swimming-With-the-Fishes dead wrong. (That joke will make more sense if you see who reviewed the book.) But just getting reviewed in the Sunday Book Review is a big triumph, a sign that you have been recognized as a serious writer by the literary community. That alone has made our journey to America's Heartland worthwhile.
And it's been quite a journey. In March of 2001, we lived in Chicago. I was happy--I had a good job at an ad agency, I liked living in the city, and we had an awesome condo we had just bought in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. TLB, though, was really not happy. She had been writing fiction since she was a little girl, but felt that she had hit a wall of sorts, that she needed to make a much fuller commitment to writing if she was going to publish. She wanted to take the next step, to study in an MFA program.
When you want to study fiction, the Iowa Writer's Workshop is the place to be. I won't get into the merits or demerits of the Workshop, but at the very least, it provides students with two years to devote to the art of writing fiction. Of course, it's ridiculously hard to get into, and TLB applied thinking she would never be accepted.
Truth be told, I wasn't expecting it either. Not that I didn't think she was talented enough. But when a program gets 700-800 applicants per year and admits 25 people or so, a lot of very talented folks will get left out. After all, they rejected me twice. I know, hard to believe, but true.
So, in March 2001, several months after she submitted her application, TLB and I are vactioning in Rome. A routine check of messages at home uncovers a voice mail from the Writer's Workshop. They need to talk to TLB. Due to the time difference, we must sleep before talking to them.
--What could it be? TLB asks
--Well, I'm sure they don't call people to tell them they didn't get in.
--Oh my God, do you think...?
The truth is, I do. I know right then that she has gotten in. But it is best to not jump to conclusions, so I say that they could be calling if something was missing from her application or for some other reason. Best to not get ahead of ourselves blah blah blah.
The phone call the next morning confirmed what I knew--that my wife is one talented lady and that I am going to need to sell my condo, find a new job, and figure out what the hell a Hawkeye is. In one of the less proud moments of my life, I whined and moaned a bit over all of this for a few weeks, despite being very happy for my wife. I knew the experience would be good for Becky, but would it be worth it?
The answer is yes, and has been yes since before she even sold her novel. It's been a great experience here, and the review today just validates that we made the right choice. As do the rave reviews she got from the Chicago Tribune (home cookin' is always the best) and Nancy Pearl, the Goddess of Librarians who reviews books on NPR.
So if you're looking for a book that opens with a bang (literally) and then pulls you in with a deeply moving, emotional storyline spanning several decades, buy Icebergs today on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. You'll be happy you did, just like I'm happy that we turned our lives upside down to chase a dream.