I have read The Journey Home from Michael Baron and enjoyed it, so when I was offered a chance to review his latest novel, Anything I decided to give him another go. And I am so happy I did! This book had me hooked from the very beginning, and was one that I would constantly talk about to friends –asking the question: what would you do?
Ken and Melissa, the focal point of the novel, are about to get married. Ken never knew he could love someone as much as he loves Melissa, and he is ready to start a new life together with her as his wife. While searching for just the right wedding present for Melissa, Ken stumbles upon a unique and mysterious shop. When the owner offers him a chance to look in on Melissa’s life when she was a girl, Ken decides to seize the opportunity. But when the look back offers a glimpse at a horrific incident from her childhood, Ken is enraged. But now Ken has a second chance – he can go back in time and prevent the incident from happening. Ken would do anything for Melissa, and to take away that memory would bring Ken such joy and he feels that Melissa’s life would only better from that. But when Ken returns to present time, Melissa is no longer in his life. She doesn’t even know who he is. By changing that one piece of the past, Ken has now altered both his and Melissa’s life – forever.
I enjoyed getting to know a male protagonist, which isn’t something I get often with mainly reading chick lit and romance. Ken was such a lovely character, a man that I think everyone woman wishes she would meet and fall in love with. He had a great dynamic with Melissa, but the depth of these characters goes even farther. Ken says he will do anything for Melissa – even at the expense of them possibly never meeting. This was a terrific book, and like I said earlier, had me talking to people about what they would do given the opportunity. Check out this book – you won’t be disappointed!
Joseph, a man in his late thirties, awakens disoriented and uneasy in a place he doesn’t recognize. He sets out on a journey to find his home with no sense of where he’s going and only the precious, indelible vision of the woman he loves to guide him.
Antoinette is an elderly woman in an assisted living facility who has retreated inside her head. There, her body and mind haven’t betrayed her. There, she’s a young newlywed with a husband who dotes on her and an entire life of dreams to live. There, she is truly home.
Warren, Antoinette’s son, is a man in his early forties going through the toughest year of his life. With far too much time on his hands, he decides to try to recreate his memories of home by attempting to cook his mother’s greatest dishes and eat them with her.
Joseph, Antoinette, and Warren are three people on different searches for home. How they connect with each another at this critical stage in their lives, is the heart and soul of this story.
One lucky winner will receive a paperback copy of The Journey Home by Michael Baron. To enter, email your name and full mailing address to Samantha(at)chicklitplus.com. For bonus entries, comment below, on Facebook, or RT on Twitter. The winner will be chosen on Sunday, April 10th. Thank you to Lou Aronica with the Story Plant for sponsoring this giveaway!
The winner is Jeanine Denzer. Thanks to all who entered!
Writing fiction isn’t like competing in the Olympics in terribly many ways. This is, for the most part, a good thing, as my training regimen falls a tiny bit short of Olympic standards (actually, it’s just this side of couch potato standards). One way in which they’re similar, though, is that, like many Olympic participants, writers get extra credit for degree of difficulty.
I’ve always shot for a certain degree of difficulty with my novels. In When You Went Away, I tried to express an entire father-daughter relationship through journal entries. In Crossing the Bridge, I created a major character that readers don’t see speak until one of the last chapters of the novel. In The Journey Home, I doubled down on degree of difficulty (do I get extra points for alliteration?) by having one viewpoint character with dementia and another with amnesia. Now, in my new novel, Spinning, I tried writing a romantic story where the protagonist falls in love twice.
Writing friends advised me that this was a risky move. There are certain conventions to love stories, they told me. One of these is that you can’t ask readers to invest in two relationships involving the same guy. Come on, I thought, is that really tougher than landing a triple axel/double salchow combination in figure skating? Since I can barely stand up on skates, I can’t answer that question, but I do know that it was tougher than I expected. The novel begins with Dylan, our protagonist, opening the door of his apartment in the middle of the night to find Diane, an old lover, and her three-year-old daughter on the other side. Over the first portion of the novel, they rekindle their relationship and truly fall in love this time. But soon tragedy strikes and Diane is gone. Then, somewhere around the middle of the novel, Dylan falls in love with a close friend, leading to all kinds of complications.
When I laid out this plot, I figured I’d have no problem with the two-love-affair issue. It all worked out rather neatly on the Excel spreadsheet I use to storyboard novels. When I started writing Dylan and Diane’s relationship, however, I really liked the way they were together. I wanted to see them make it. If I wanted to see them make it, were readers going to want to see them make it as well? How were they going to feel about the fact that they don’t make it? How were they going to feel about Dylan when he lets himself fall in love again so quickly? Would readers give their hearts to this new relationship if I broke their hearts over the previous one?
This required quite a bit of finessing. In the end, I think I found a way to make both relationships work. Did I get enough rotation on my turns, though? Did I stick the landing? Did I enter the pool with the minimal amount of splash? That’s up to readers to decide, but I hope they’ll give me at least a bit of extra credit for degree of difficulty.
Thank you to Michael Baron for stopping by! You can check out him and his books at his website!
See my review of The Journey Home
The Journey Home by Michael Baron is a beautiful story that intertwines the lives of four very different individuals. Joseph, a man in his late thirties, is awoken one day with no recollection of who is, where he is, or why he has no memory of his life. All he knows is that his wife is waiting for him, needs him, and it is up to him to find her. Will, a young boy, becomes his traveling companion, and is wanting to get away from his foster parents. Antoinette is an elderly woman living in assisted care, still grieving the death of her husband who passed six years earlier. Her son, Warren, visits her frequently but is going through his share of struggles. He is in the process of a divorce and has lost his job, so he begins to spend more time with his mother, often cooking her meals that she was once cooked for him. Each character is struggling to find happiness and home, and Baron does an excellent job at transitioning between each of their respective lives and journeys. I didn’t get pulled it right away, it took me a few chapters of getting to know the characters and differentiate between the situations, but once I was able to get past the multiple points of view, I was all in. A definite recommendation.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been making up stories since I was a little kid, but I think the moment I realized I really wanted to do this was when I was thirteen and decided to write a novel. It was a dreadful, mawkish love story, but I found the experience extremely satisfying. From that point forward, writing became very important to me.
Q: You write both fiction and non-fiction. Why did you decide to write both?
Well, I actually didn’t decide to write fiction professionally for a long time. I wrote a novel right out of college, tried to get it published, and collected enough rejections to heat the house for a week. After that, I walked away from fiction for a long time – walked away from book-length writing completely for a period. I got on with my day job and then a nonfiction writing opportunity presented itself. This turned into a rather steady career. A couple of years ago, though, I realized that I really missed writing fiction. I felt that there were all kinds of things I wanted to say, especially about relationships between people, that I couldn’t ever address in my nonfiction. Fortunately, my fiction writing skills had been quietly improving in the background all these years. My first published novel, When You Went Away is just a tiny bit better than that novel I wrote in college (which will never come out of the trunk).
Q: What do you want readers to take away from your books?
What I’m hoping they get is some level of reflection. Each of my novels have come about because I wanted to do two things: I wanted to explore how people connect with one another and I wanted to ruminate on a particular thing. In When You Went Away, it was parenthood. In Crossing the Bridge it was family, specifically brothers. These are obviously tremendously common experiences, and I’m hoping the novels give people a reason to think about their own lives.
Q: I am about to start reading your third novel, The Journey Home. Where did the inspiration for these characters come from?
The inspiration for The Journey Home was particularly strong: my mother and father’s romance. They had been married for more than fifty years when my father died (I was born after they’d been married quite a while and I’m last in the birth order – more on that in another novel) and they were the most important people in each other’s lives for every one of those years. One of the important viewpoint characters in the novel is an elderly woman whose husband died five years earlier and who has decided to live in her head so she can re-live the time they had together. Some of this is the direct result of conversations I had with my mother after my father passed.
Q: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I love creating and learning about the characters. I spend a great deal of time thinking about them and getting to know them. My goal is to be so familiar with them that I don’t have to think about how they would react when I’m in the middle of a scene, that it all just comes naturally to me. I also love writing dialogue. I have a tremendous amount of fun playing out the conversations in my head. One day, I’d like to write entire novella in dialogue.
Q: I read that you were previously a teacher. How were you able to break into the writing industry?
Lucky break, really. Someone needed a co-author for a book and I happened to have the right skillset for the job. I connected with that person’s agent and things have been very steady since.
Q: If you were stranded on an island and had to have on celebrity with you, who would choose and why?
That’s a huge challenge for me. If you were going to spend a huge amount of time with another person, you’d want that person to be genuinely interesting rather than simply a personality. I admire many celebrities for their craft, but I’m not sure they’d be all that much fun to hang out with once we got past the starstruck stage. I’d probably say Bruce Springsteen because I not only love his work, but I admire his passion and the causes he supports. I would imagine we’d have a number of fascinating conversations, though I doubt I’d be able to hold up my end of them.
Q: What is your best advice for aspiring writers?
Write what you love and write it as passionately and honestly as you possibly can. Also, never do it because you think you’re going to be a star. If that happens, great, but it’s unlikely to happen if this is your only reason for doing it.
Q: Where would be your dream vacation?
It would be a week each in all of the dining capitals of the world. And since we’re taking “dream,” I’d get to eat like a true gourmand and not gain a single pound.
In My Mailbox: Week of April 25th
Title: The Journey Home
Author: Michael Baron
Received: From Michael Baron
Synopsis: Joseph, a man in his late thirties, awakens disoriented and uneasy in a place he doesn’t recognize. Several people are near him when he opens his eyes, all strangers. All of them seem perfectly friendly, but none of them can explain to him how he got there. They offer him a delicious meal and pleasant conversation in a beautifully decorated room. This would be a very nice experience if not for one thing: Joseph doesn’t know where he is and he has no way to contact his wife, who he is sure is worried sick over him. Thanking the people for their hospitality, he leaves to make his way back home. The only problem is that whatever happened to him has stripped him of most of his memories. He knows he needs to get back to his wife, but he doesn’t know how to find her. He sets out on a journey to find his home with no sense of where he’s going and only the precious, indelible vision of the woman he loves to guide him.
Antoinette is an elderly woman in an assisted living facility. She’s spent the last six years there since her husband died, and most of those years have been happy. She enjoys the company of others in her situation and her son comes to visit often. But in recent months, she’s had a tougher and tougher time leaving her room. Her friends seem different to her and the world seems increasingly confusing. She spends an escalating amount of time on a journey inside her head. There, her body and mind haven’t betrayed her. There, she’s a young newlywed with a husband who dotes on her and an entire life of dreams to live. There, she is truly home.
Warren, Antoinette’s son, is a man in his early forties going through the toughest year of his life. His marriage ended, he lost his job, and in the past few months, his mother has gone from hale to increasingly hazy. Having trouble finding work, he spends more and more time by his mother’s bedside. But her lack of lucidity both frustrates and frightens him. With far too much time on his hands, he decides to try to recreate his memories of home by attempting to cook his mother’s greatest dishes using the rudimentary appliances available in her room. He finds the challenge surprisingly rewarding, especially because the only time he feels his mother is truly with him anymore is when she is eating the meals he prepares for her.
Joseph, Antoinette, and Warren are three people on different searches for home. How they find it, and how they connect with one another at this critical stage in each of their lives, is the foundation for a profound and deeply moving story.
Title: The Look of Love
Author: Jill Egizii
Received: From Jill Egizii
Synopsis: Anna, the wife of a prominent local attorney, has decided enough is enough. After nearly twenty years of marriage, she realizes she must get free from her controlling spouse. In the process, she loses the only thing that made escaping worthwhile–her children. Despite their joint custody agreement, her ex uses his wiles, wealth, and legal experience to exile Anna from the family. Her once “normal” relationships with her son and daughter mysteriously sour. The system, the law, and her faith in herself all seem to fail her at the same time. While facing the fight of her life, Anna realizes the true meaning of friendship and love.