The Divining Wand

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Kristina Riggle and The Life You’ve Imagined

August 16, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


In the follow up to her successful debut of Real Life & Liars, Kristina Riggle presents us with another thoughtful, touching, bittersweet read — The Life You’ve Imagined, releasing tomorrow, August 17, 2010. This second book also proves that the author’s natural gift is her talent to write a quiet little novel that whispers, nudges, and reminds how much of life is filled with hope.

However the irony is that the idea for this storyline came out of Kristina’s seemingly lack of hope, as she explains:

“Really the story was inspired by my eroding naivete about how the world works. I used to believe — as I think many young National Honor Society types do — that the world is a meritocracy and if I just work hard enough, rewards and happiness will automatically come to me. This is definitely true for the Anna character, who can’t quite believe that she’s at the cusp of achieving everything she’s ever wanted, yet the envisioned happiness is not there.”

As for the title, it’s a line taken from the following quote:

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the live you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler. __Henry David Thoreau

Yet, according to the author, “the quote was almost an afterthought, just a piece of scenery. As the novel evolved, the notion of an imagined life being sharply different from reality came into focus and I realized that was the perfect title.”

The quote and its dream for future happiness also provides the link to three childhood friends unexpectedly reunited one summer, all still searching for their dream of happiness.

Here’s the novel’s Synopsis:

Are you living the life you imagined? Is there anything you’d have done differently if you could? Those are the questions asked in Kristina Riggle’s unforgettable new novel.

In high school, Cami and Anna were as close as they could be…now, years later, both have returned to their hometown to face the people they had once left behind. Anna must confront her mother, still distraught over the abandonment of her husband, and come to terms with choices she had made years before. While Cami returns home to stay with her alcoholic father, she uncovers a secret he sought to keep which could change her life and salvage her future. They reconnect with their classmate, Amy, who can’t understand why achieving the thin body and handsome man of her dreams hasn’t given her the happily-ever-after she desired. This is a novel that digs deep and touches the heart of the issues so many women face-the quest for perfection, the hope of love, the value of family and importance of always striving for your dream.

Selected by independent booksellers as an IndieNext “Notable” Pick for September 2010 The Life You’ve Imagined has also earned Praise from the author’s notable peers.

And HarperCollins offers a special bonus to those readers who Browse Inside the book. There are 54 pages available for your reading pleasure….certainly much more than one would imagine!

Kristina writes in the same format she used in Real Life & Liars, rotating first person narrators to place the reader into the mindset and physical space of her four main characters. Bound by their small town background of growing up in fictional Haven, Michigan, the personal issues that each must resolve in order to achieve her dreams are universal problems for anyone, anywhere.

These women have dreams that they’ve tried to achieve, but their efforts have not necessarily lead to happiness. Instead such personal control has created more stress and disappointment, blurring the truth of what they really desire. After all wishes made during adolescence usually change with maturity, opportunity, and the confidence to let go, allowing life to happen.

Perhaps it’s that confidence these characters seek from their hometown reunion. The author’s description/depiction of fictional Haven, Michigan is truly stunning. And the Nee Nance Store, the dying family business that connects them all (see Guest Kristina Riggle on All in the Family), could not be a better example of the confidence needed to know when to let go of a dying dream and then move on.

But what about the author, is she living the life she imagined?

Kristina says, “No! And I’m glad. I imagined myself by this point sailing along in my career as a newspaper reporter, well on my way to becoming editor of a large urban daily. Novel writing was a vague aspiration for some undefined “‘someday.'” I always envisioned myself a hardcore career woman who would “‘do it all.'” I’m still a career woman, but the career is different, and my definition of success more fluid and flexible. I no longer try to predict my life many years ahead, and when I do imagine the future, it’s more in terms of family and home rather than jobs and money. Also, the older I get the more aware I am that it’s all so fragile. I’m happy that my family and I are healthy right now, today. And I’m awfully glad that my “‘someday novel'” came sooner rather than later, because who knows what later will bring?”

Readers/fans of Kristina Riggle are also glad her life didn’t turn out as imagined since The Life You’ve Imagined — the second “someday novel” — is available now, tomorrow, rather than later. Enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Kristina Riggle’s The Life You’ve Imagined in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Guest Kristina Riggle on All in the Family

August 10, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[As she did with her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, Kristina Riggle writes with soul about family and friends coming to terms with change in The Life You’ve Imagined, being released August 17, 2010. And, in today’s guest post, she shares the personal inspiration for the book.]

This is what I remember most about my dad starting his own business: him sitting in a basement office space with a city directory open in front of him, cold-calling strangers to sell his lawn care service.

Since you don’t know my dad, this is probably unremarkable. But my dad is shy.

And if you’re shy, too, you know how hard it is to talk to strangers about the weather. And here he was, calling up strangers in their homes to sell them something. And the stakes were high. If he failed, there went our family’s livelihood.

Meanwhile, my mother – raising two children and already working full time to support us – would spend her evenings doing the accounting for the family business.

I wasn’t consciously thinking of this as I sat down to write The Life You’ve Imagined, but it must have been lurking in the back of my mind. The story revolves around four women connected by a dying family business, in this case a convenience store called the Nee Nance Store.

No matter how much you love your job, if it’s not your company, it just isn’t the same. You can’t have that ownership and pride, nor is the fear of failure ever quite as great. And the odds are stacked against small businesses, certainly. As a reporter I’d done many a story about a new business venture. The owners would show off their shiny new spaces and equipment, bubbling over about how their store was unique and special. And more often than not, I’d drive by later only to see an empty, dark storefront.

My dad’s business beat those odds. He just retired in January after twenty-one years. And it was my dad’s company – plus the support of my mom, without whom he never would have made it — that finally pushed us firmly into middle class instead of hovering over the poverty line.

How did the business affect my sister and me? From middle school on I was also a receptionist when I got home from school. I’d have to answer, “Riggle Professional Lawn Care” or at least, “Riggles” when I answered the phone, and then professionally and courteously take down the message, even if someone was honked off about too much crabgrass. (My dad used to joke that I should answer, “Riggle Towers, how may I direct your call?” as if we were in some shiny office complex, as opposed to our little brown house.) I also had to begin processing the incoming checks every day, to make it easier for my mom to enter them into our books every night when she got home from a long day working at the bank.

But my small contributions to the family business were nothing compared to my characters in The Life You’ve Imagined. Maeve and her daughter Anna lived out their lives behind the front counter of their store; the operating hours of a convenience store meant that they were almost always working, and had scant privacy.

For Maeve, who was stuck with the store after her husband took off, the Nee Nance was a necessary evil: it was income and support for her daughter, and the only job skill she thought she had. For Anna, it symbolized everything she never wanted, so she took off for the big city as soon as she could. But as the story opens, she finds herself back home again.

This isn’t the only family business in the story. Anna’s childhood sweetheart, Beck, is heir to the Becker Development fortune. The contrast between their two lives growing up was something else which imprinted Anna with a desire for something better than what she had. She’s going to have a new relationship with Becker Dev, now, as it turns out that the other son, Paul Becker, has just purchased the Nee Nance Store’s building….

I’m lucky in that my family’s business story wasn’t so dramatic. But I know now, with adult perspective and as a parent myself, how terrifying those first years must have been, and how every economic downturn must have left my parents wondering: Is this the year we fail?

Labor Day is approaching, a time when we applaud the everyday working Joe and Jane. I’d like to take a moment to cheer for the family business, for the proprietors who have the guts to chase a dream. In fact, do more than just cheer, give them your business. Like Anna and Maeve, they might just be hanging on by their fingernails…

* * * * *

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, Julie Buxbaum and After You. A comment on any other post during this 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.