Ally has written this post in promotion of her new book, This is Sarah. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, Ally!
You can buy This is Sarah on Amazon (the Kindle edition is only 99 cents right now!)
This is Sarah Book Summary
When Colin Leventhal leaned out his bedroom window on the night of May 12th and said goodbye to his girlfriend, he never expected it would be forever. But when Sarah Evans goes missing that night, Colin’s world unravels as he transforms from the boyfriend next door to the main police suspect. Then one year later, at her memorial service, Colin makes a phone call that could change everything. Is it possible that Sarah is still alive? And if so, how far will he go to bring her back?
As Colin struggles with this possibility, across the street, Sarah’s little sister, Claire learns how to navigate the strange new landscape of life without her sister. While her parents fall apart, Claire remains determined to keep going, even if it kills her.
THIS IS SARAH serves as a meditation on loss, love, and what it means to say goodbye.
Elements of a Great Story from Ally Malinenko
I think the question of what makes a story great is really subjective. I know what it is for me: Character. If I read about characters I can connect with then it doesn’t really matter as much what “happens.”
I know that probably sounds weird but maybe it’s because my favorite book is Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger. Let’s be honest. Not a lot happens there.
In the first part of the book Franny meets her boyfriend at the train station – she’s in town for the “big game” and they go out to dinner. During dinner Franny gets a wicked case of indigestion/ennui/existential crisis and goes into the bathroom to cry. Come on, who hasn’t? The end.
In the second part Franny has returned home to her family of geniuses that includes her brother Zooey. Franny and Zooey are close in age and you find out they were sort of the pet project of their older siblings Buddy (who now lives without a phone – much to his mother’s chagrin – on the college campus he teaches at) and Seymour (who committed suicide years earlier). Zooey takes a very long bath which is interrupted by his mother who, planting herself on the toilet bowl to chat, complains that Franny is not well (still suffering from indigestion/ennui/existential crisis) and is doing nothing but lying on the couch. Mom wants to know if Zooey can talk to her and get her to move off the couch, because, for goodness sake the painters need to get into the living room. After much badgering, Zooey agrees to talk to his sister – an experiment that does not go well. Seeing that she is not going to respond, he goes into his older brother’s room and using the separate extension they had, calls Franny pretending to be Buddy to talk her out of this malaise. Franny catches on a few minutes into the conversation that it’s not Buddy and it’s Zooey after all and yet her brother is still able to impart some words of wisdom. In the end, Franny lays down in her parents bed and sleeps well.
That’s it. That’s the whole book. Nothing major happens other than two people managing their lives, existential crisis and all, and some really fantastic dialogue. Now this isn’t to say that I don’t like books where tons of things happen and each page is a cliffhanger – because of course I do. Who doesn’t? Escapism – it’s why read (and what’s for dinner!). But if you gave me the choice between characters I connect with and wham blam action, I’m always going to pick the characters I connect with. Even if they just lay on the living room floor and have conversations.
But again this is all subjective. Salinger’s book was popular with the reading public but the reviews were mixed. It was called “appallingly bad” and a “piece of shapeless self-indulgence.” Whatever, critics don’t know everything.
Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collection The Wanting Bone (Six Gallery Press) and the children’s fantasy Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb (Antenna Books). She lives in Brooklyn with her husband.