Although The Debutante Ball will continue its 2009 season until the end of August, tomorrow — Tuesday, June 16th — Kristina Riggle will become the fifth and final member of the class to take a bow when her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, becomes available for purchase online and at bookstores everywhere.
To become aquainted with this talented writer who loves the meaningful pleasures of family, home, and Michigan, a visit to Kristina’s Bio on her website will tell you that:
“Kristina Riggle lives and writes in West Michigan. Besides her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, she has published short stories in the Cimarron Review, Literary Mama, Espresso Fiction, and elsewhere. She is also a freelance journalist writing primarily for The Grand Rapids Press, and co-editor for fiction at Literary Mama. Kristina was a full-time newspaper reporter for seven years before turning her attention to creative writing and freelancing. On Mondays, she can be found blogging at The Debutante Ball, a group blog of authors debuting in 2009. As well as writing, she enjoys reading, yoga, dabbling in (very) amateur musical theatre, and spending lots of time with her husband, two kids and dog.
“Real Life & Liars is set in Charlevoix, Michigan, a town close to Kristina’s heart as the home of her grandparents where she has visited often over the years. Some recognizable Charlevoix landmarks appear in the novel, as well as fictionalized versions of real places. The home of the Zielinski family on Dixon Avenue is based loosely on the house where her grandmother grew up.”
Without question Charlevoix is a character in itself, detailed and warmly described in Real Life & Liars. In fact, acting out its background role, this setting for the novel may well be the only truthful anchor to the story. As Deb Kristina explains in her February 9, 2009 post, In which love hurts all kinds of ways , “Real Life & Liars isn’t a love story, but it’s a story about love.” Or, simply put, it’s about the author’s desire to write about complex family relationships. And, as the author revealed in a recent LitChat, “One major theme of LIARS: what if your children don’t grow up the way you tried to raise them?”
An interesting question to think about while reading the Synopsis of the novel:
“Sometimes the hardest thing you can do in this world is try to be happy…
“For Mirabelle Zielinski’s children, happiness always seems to be one step away. Her oldest daughter Katya, clings to a stale marriage with a workaholic husband and three spoiled children. Her son, Ivan, is a down– in–the–dumps musician with the worst taste in women. Irina is a young beauty who once lived life on a whim and is now facing the rest of her days with a baby and a husband nearly twice her age. The weekend of their parents’ anniversary party love will be found, hearts will be broken, and lies will be revealed. But the biggest shock may come from Mirabelle herself; because she has a secret that will change everything…”
Critical Praise from the trade journals —
“With ease and grace, Riggle walks the fine line between sentimentality and comedy, and she has a sure hand in creating fun, quirky characters. Humorous and humane storytelling makes this much better than the standard cancer tear-jerker.”__Publishers Weekly
“Riggle crafts a moving and accomplished first novel about a family coming to terms with change.
And more Advanced Praise from authors –
“In her wondrously affecting debut novel REAL LIFE AND LIARS, Kristina Riggle accomplished something authors almost never do anymore: she made me care about her characters – and what a wide-ranging cast of characters they are! She made me want good things for them. A must-read for summer 2009.”__Lauren Baratz-Logsted, author of Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes
“Written with grace, passion, and insight, REAL LIFE AND LIARS is a deeply felt novel that draws a vivid portrait of a family in transition, and examines the very real fear of leaving behind all you hold dear.”__Maggie Dana, author of BEACHCOMBING
“Real Life & Liars, Kristina Riggle’s sumptuous and rich debut novel, examines the complications that arise in family and marriage, love and heartbreak. With lush writing and nuanced, relatable characters, this book is a must-read for anyone who has ever been both grateful and driven mad by the people they love most: their family.”__Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of Time of My Life and The Department of Lost and Found
In other words, Deb Kristina has succeeded in writing an emotionally universal story that both whispers and shouts the truth behind lies. Her inspiration? The December 1, 2008 post, In which a garage sale makes the difference for Deb Kristina, tells how buying Anne Tyler’s BREATHING LESSONS for 25 cents opened her eyes. Hopefully you’ll read the entire post that are highlighted with these thoughts:
“Anne Tyler made me care about those people as if their lives were my own.”
“This book taught me that interior stories, in the hands of a talented writer, can be just as compelling as the fate of nations. That’s how it changed my life.”
“There are no car chases in REAL LIFE & LIARS. The fate of the free world does not rest with my characters. I won’t kid myself, either, that for my first novel I can achieve the heights of Anne Tyler’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book. But I could only write LIARS after I decided to write the kind of book I love to read, the kind of book that makes matters of the soul as important as matters of state.
“Hearts matter. Anne Tyler taught me that.”
In January, I received an ARC of Real Life & Liars to review for the HarperCollins First Look program and here is my First Look:
Although it’s a time for a family celebration of love and life in Kristina Riggle’s debut novel, Real Life & Liars, the five immediate Zielinski clan members are anything but joyful. All come together — for a weekend — sharing lies with each other, while personally seeking their own truths. Yet this is not your typical dysfunctional homecoming story where one cataclysmic crisis reunites characters to live happily ever after. Instead this is a well-drawn study of real people with separate lives and problems who also happen to be related and connected by a lifetime history.
Narrated from the first person POV of Mira — the mother — the three adult children are written from the third person POV, allowing the reader insight and understanding into their lives and lies. And why do they lie? If you were to believe the oldest child, Katya, it would be because there is no perfect, only real life and liars. Cynical indeed and perhaps too easy an excuse. Because the truth appears to be that their facades hide the fact that they are looking for love…first and foremost self-love or, at least, a measure of self-confidence.
In the end some lies are revealed but, as in real life, Kristina Riggle lets her characters move forward to choose whichever path suits their newly discovered truths or easy-to-fall-back-on lies. Real Life & Liars can best be described as “a quiet little book” that emotionally connects you with the major and minor details of daily life — i.e. a heart-grabbing story which lingers as the reader may well consider her/his own lies and truths.
After reading that review, Kristina sent a brief note with this telling message: “I love how you described it. You enjoyed it for the same reasons I loved writing it.”
TRUST: You will enjoy Real Life & Liars too!