I recently joined an online community for readers and writers called Good Reads, if you like books, it quickly becomes an addicting past time. On Good Reads you can list books you’ve read, rate them and if you’re so inclined, you can write a review. This new forum has lead to a stack of books next to my bed and a small arsenal of audiobooks on my MP3 player but that’s not the best part. The best part is that Good Reads attracts authors and much like MySpace you can invite them as friends and even see when their online.
Among the authors I discovered on the site was Claire Cook. A few years ago Claire authored the book Must Love Dogs, which was later made into a movie. Since my daughter and I both loved the book we did as we always do with our favorites, we obtained a first edition, first print for our collection.
Unable to resist I sent Claire a friend invite along with a little note telling her how much we enjoyed Must Love Dogs. Claire accepted the friend invite then wrote back to me and said that she read some of my writing, sections I had posted on the site. She noted a particular piece that I wrote about the memorial garden my daughter and I planted for her father who died the previous year. Claire said that her mother died when she was a very young girl and that she recently wrote about her experience in in the August 2008 issue of Good Housekeeping.
While out on errands, my daughter and I swooped in and pirated my mother’s copy Good Housekeeping and my daughter read Claire’s story out loud in the car while I drove. As she read, it occurred to me that my daughter didn’t really know anyone who lost a parent and Claire’s emails and story seemed to tell her that she wasn’t alone.
When I initially sent Claire the note, I expected a quick thanks but what I got was a link to her website where she posts information for aspiring writers, the name of her beloved literary agent with permission to say that we go waaay back and the out pouring of comfort and understanding that she wrapped around my daughter like a soft blanket. Claire even suggested that that my daughter and I consider co-authoring a book about the experience.
I smiled at that recommendation because it was one that my daughter and I talked about. What Claire didn’t know was that the year my daughters father died, that she spent most of that year in bed sick. That we waged war with the local clinic for a referral to a specialist, that the school district processed her as a drop out every time she was too ill to attended class and they refused her desperately needed educational support because an exact diagnosis had yet to be arrived upon. It was the year that my daughter lost what remained of her health, she lost the ability to attend school and 8 weeks later she lost her father. No previous experience as mother could have prepared me to bring my 16 year old child through that much debris.
I can’t begin to describe the depth of my daughters despair or the sense of terror you come to know when you realize that your child’s only wish is to quietly die. The year was like having a child on life support, and was compounded by ongoing chronic illness and a school district who left her to sort waste baskets for notes covering missed curriculum. Several months later she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, in a nutshell her immune response to common illnesses like strep throat, flu, colds, mono… was nonexistent. Hence the constant illness, hence the nickname, Bubble Girl.
With that my daughter and I embarked on the long journey of healing our hearts and reinventing our lives. My daughter enrolled as an online high school student, caught up on credits, interviewed about the experience with Minnesota Public Radio and began earning A’s because she wasn’t missing 70% of the classroom instruction. Also, as a result the local school district was forced to enact a 32 year old law that protects the education rights of the chronically ill children. Teachers underwent training and it eventually wound its way into the school district’s handbook and was implimented district wide.
Claire’s recommendation revitalized a previous discussion my daughter and I had on the subject of co-authorship. But this time the suggestion came from a respected author, so it gave credibility to our original idea. That having been said, I also think Bubble Girl might be great material … when I have time.
With all the buzz in my house over Claire Cook it occurred to me that I hadn’t kept up on any of her more recent work so I investigated and discovered that Claire has turned out several books since the publication of Must Love Dogs. So, I downloaded her most recent novel Summer Blowout to my MP3 player and I drifted away.
What I love most about Claire’s writing is her lightness…no one writes lighter than Claire. I’m not sure I know of another author who is more adept at creating content and conflict while still leaving her audience feeling like they’re lounging at an expensive resort, sipping tall cool glasses of ice tea. If you haven’t read it, check out the audio excerpt on Audible.com,
At present Claire is finishing her 6th novel titled The Wildwater Walking Club due out in May 2009. We thank her for her generosity and wish her the very best of everything:)