The Divining Wand

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Julie Buxbaum and After You

August 09, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


There is a priceless, poetic irony in the fact that Julie Buxbaum (The Opposite of Love, After You) long feared writing her thoughts down on paper (see The Terror of the Blank Page) since, in both her novels, she delves deeply into the most personal of human emotions to reveal life’s heartbreaking pains and comforting truths. While her debut novel tackled the struggles of figuring out, “Who am I going to be when I grow up?”, After You is based on the author having grown up and now wondering about the challenges our adult selves must face whether we want to or not.

With human relationships on her mind — having recently become engaged at the time –, Julie questioned: How well do we actually know the people we love? Because the bottom line is that in any type of relationship it’s impossible to know for certain what someone else is thinking. Ah, but what if she created a storyline in which one character is allowed — even lovingly forced — to step into the shoes of her best friend?

After You provides that rare opportunity. Here is the Synopsis:

The complexities of friendship. The unraveling of a neglected marriage. And the redemptive power of literature…Julie Buxbaum, the acclaimed author of The Opposite of Love, delivers a powerful, gloriously written novel about love, family, and the secrets we hide from each other, and ourselves.

On a cobblestone street in Notting Hill, Ellie Lerner’s life-long best friend, Lucy, is stabbed to death in front of her eight-year-old daughter. Ellie, of course, drops everything – her job, her marriage, her life in the Boston suburbs – and travels to London to pick up the pieces of the life Lucy has left behind. While Lucy’s husband, Greg copes with his grief by retreating to the pub, eight-year-old Sophie has simply stopped speaking.

Desperate to help Sophie, Ellie turns to a book that gave her comfort as a child, The Secret Garden. As the two spend hours exploring the novel, its story of hurt, magic and healing blooms around them. But so, too, do the secrets Lucy kept hidden, even from her best friend. As Ellie peels back the layers of her friend’s life, she’s forced to confront her own as well – the marriage she left behind, the loss she’d hoped to escape, and the elusiveness of the place we choose to call home.

A novel that will resonate in the heart of anyone who’s had a best friend, a love lost, or a past full of regrets, AFTER YOU proves once again the unique and compelling talent of Julie Buxbaum.

Glowing praise came with publication of the Hardcover edition in September 2009:

“Buxbaum skillfully handles this tale of grief and growing, resonant with realistic emotional stakes and hard-won wisdom.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Buxbaum keeps the story as smart as the writing…The author keeps it real and works out optimistic rather than happy endings for her sharply focused and honestly sympathetic characters.”
—Kirkus

And now on the Trade Paperback’s front cover:

After You highlights—beautifully and compellingly—the truth that sometimes we have to lose the people closest to us to find ourselves.”—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times Bestselling author

To sample After You, please take a look at Excerpt: Chapter 1.

The beauty of this multi-layered novel is that it begins simply enough with Ellie devastated by the death of her friend yet trying, as best she can, to comfort an eight- year-old, motherless child. Yet soon there are more personal issues revealed and challenges to be met. For Ellie — who lost an unborn baby two years prior, drifted emotionally/physically away from her husband, and could care less about her career — must come to terms with what she believes is the loss of her identity. If not a best friend, mother, or devoted partner/wife….who is she and where does she belong?

Indeed, in the author interview on her website’s Q&A page (click on Synopsis), Julie says: “As the novel unfolds, the reader learns that there is more going on in Ellie’s old life in Boston than originally suspected (and in Lucy’s in London, too, for that matter). AFTER YOU then becomes less a story about a woman comforting a grieving child and very much a story about a woman running away.”

Or perhaps Ellie merely chooses to escape with Sophie by reading the magical tale of the classic children’s novel, The Secret Garden. In addition to being the writer’s all-time favorite book, its story of redemption and self-healing mirrors the raw loss and loneliness both of her characters feel….while dealing with the discovery of hidden secrets.

After You is simple in its premise of loss, heartbreaking in its honesty of grief, and profound in its insights into the mistakes made in relationships. It’s sad, yet never maudlin. After all the truth is the truth — another challenge to be faced and accepted by adults.

This novel is also stunning, breathtaking, optimistic and — dare I say — comforting? Julie Buxbaum’s writing “voice” draws the reader in with a soothing calmness even amidst the confusion of sorrow, indecision, and mistaken assumptions. There’s no reason to fear for these characters but there is hope to cheer for them. And, oh, the lessons one can learn.

Please, After You is a “must reading” experience. “Must read” because the words Julie Buxbaum used to write only in her mind now fill blank pages and, without question, come straight from her heart.

Book Giveaway: This week Julie Buxbaum has graciously offered two “signed” copies of After You to the winners of a random drawing from comments left on this specific post. A comment left on any other post during the week will not be eligible. The deadline for this contest is Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT and the winners will be announced here in Thursday’s post. IF you do enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Guest Julie Buxbaum on
The Terror of the Blank Page

August 03, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Imagine Julie Buxbaum (After You, The Opposite of Love) being afraid to share her insight, honesty, and humor in writing! It’s true and — in today’s guest post — she not only confesses but explains how/why her “transformation” to being an author took place.]

The Terror of the Blank Page

I’m pretty sure there are only two kinds of writers in this world. The ones who spent their childhood dragging around piles of journals and their free time actually writing, and the ones like me, who for years only wrote in their heads. The biggest difference between the first and the second, I think, besides using paper, is that the first embraced what I like to call their inner writerdom, while the latter succumbed to the fear. When an option, fear seems to suit me.

For those of us who fancy ourselves writers, but have never written anything (and I was one of those people for a very long time, so believe me when I say I’m not judging) there is nothing more terrifying than the blank page. The idea is so terrifying in fact, that we choose to ignore it altogether and pursue alternative means of spending our lives. For me, I ran from the page by going to law school, and spending four years as an attorney, where I could fill pages by regurgitating case law, slewing together other people’s sentences. And only in the dark hours of night, or sometimes in the shower, would I write for myself, rearrange words until they meant something, only to get lost by morning, or when I put my foot on the bathmat, as if writing was some sort of dirty secret. Ah, it’s amazing what fear can do.

In college, my roommate took a fiction-writing course, and because I was too scared to share my work—no worse, I was too scared to create any work—I didn’t take the class, but read her syllabus again late at night, as if it was something to be shameful of. Neither did I turn my love of reading (and my distaste for numbers) into a major. Nope, again the fear kept me away and I embraced Philosophy, Political Science, Economics (Economics, really?), anything to avoid having to put my own thoughts, my own words onto paper. And still the paragraphs would line up at night, march into order, where I played with them, as if they were a game, not a way of life.

The funny thing is that when I finally embraced my identity as a writer, quit my job and plunged head first, I suddenly wasn’t scared at all. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I really, really hated my job, but I like to think that I needed to do all these other things first to know I was ready. Come to think of it, maybe there are two kinds of writers in the world. The ones who are born ready, and the rest of us who need to struggle just a bit first before we can face that terrifying blank page.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Alicia Bessette’s Simply from Scratch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Alicia Bessette and Simply from Scratch. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

The Revealing of Julie Buxbaum

July 28, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Julie Buxbaum (After You, The Opposite of Love) knows life’s universal truths and explores them with deft insight and heartfelt honesty in both of her novels. Debuting with The Opposite of Love — earning a Starred Review from Library Journal –, she followed with After You in fall, 2009. Released in Paperback last month, here’s a brief overview of that second novel:

The complexities of friendship. The unraveling of a neglected marriage. And the redemptive power of literature…Julie Buxbaum, the acclaimed author of The Opposite of Love, delivers a powerful, gloriously written novel about love, family, and the secrets we hide from each other, and ourselves.

The Divining Wand has scheduled a full presentation/review of After You for Monday, August 9, 2010. In the meantime let’s meet this author through her “official” bio:

Julie Buxbaum is the author of The Opposite of Love and After You. Her work has been translated into eighteen languages, and The Opposite of Love has been optioned to film with Anne Hathaway set to star. Julie is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School. She currently lives in London where After You is set.

Now here’s Julie revealed:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Blessed. Fulfilling. Silly, exhausting, and sometimes ridiculous. Happy.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A:I wish I was organized enough to have a motto.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Making my daughter giggle. Should I up the ante? How about making my daughter giggle on the day I reached number one on the New York Times Bestseller list while vacationing on an exotic island wearing shorts that fit in high school.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Something happening to the people I love.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Wherever my family is, but if they happened to be on a sandy beach in Kauai I wouldn’t complain.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Wonder Woman. Wait, she wasn’t a historical figure?

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I’m a big fan of the work of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And I have a major writer crush on Nora Ephron.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: Since moving to London, I use the word lovely way too often.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: To dress myself. And to sleep ten hours a night. (I guess that’s less a talent and more a superpower.)

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Being able to call myself a novelist.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Anxiety. It can consume me, if I’m not careful.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m ferociously loyal. There are few things I wouldn’t do for the people I love.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: When I don’t take the time to appreciate my life.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I am not sure I would want to be anyone or anything else permanently, but I would like a sneak peak into pretty much anyone else’s mind from time to time. I think that’s probably why I write. I’m intensely curious about everyone else’s inner life.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My upper lip disappears when I smile, which is often.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Am I cheating if I say Wonder Woman again? Okay, how about Nancy Drew?

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Gargamel, because it takes a certain amount of evil to hate Smurfs.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: The Williams sisters, and I would tell them they rock.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: When my baby is crying and people ask me if she is hungry.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading, of course.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Other than what I do now? Writing for Grey’s Anatomy.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A:Kindness, humor, loyalty.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Mashed potatoes. Mountains of them.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Anna Begins, The Counting Crows
She Talks to Angels, Black Crowes
Hallelujah, (I’m partial to the Jeff Buckley version)
Crazy Love, Van Morrison
Tangled up in Blue, Bob Dylan

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: The Secret Garden, Francis Hodgson Burnett
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
Immortality, Milan Kundera
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky

Charming, funny, and very wise, enjoy more of Julie Buxbaum by following her on Twitter, becoming a friend/fan on Facebook, and visiting her recent creation, julie has writer’s blog.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Claire Cook’s Seven Year Switch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Claire Cook and Seven Year Switch. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.