Abby Fabiaschi will present her new novel, I Liked My Life, at the West Hartford Public Library on Tuesday, January 31st, at 6:15 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. Copies of the book will be available for purchase / signing. Location: 20 South Main St.
Today, I am joined in Monday musings by Abby Fabiaschi.
Abby is the debut novelist of I Liked My Life, due out tomorrow from St. Martin’s Press. A graduate of The Taft School and Babson College, she held an executive post in high tech before resigning that position to pursue writing. Abby is a human rights advocate and Director of the Board for Made By Survivors, an international nonprofit organization with a unique prosperity model that uplifts victims from sex trafficking and extreme abuse. She and her family divide their time between West Hartford, Connecticut and Park City, Utah.
Praise for I Liked My Life:
“Readers will be enveloped by the emotional impact of Fabiaschi’s writing. Warm and hopeful, this marvelous debut stands next to novels from Catherine McKenzie and Carolyn Parkhurst in taking the reader on the emotional rides that define marriage and family.”―Booklist, Starred review
“Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, this hard-to-put-down, engrossing debut will have readers wondering until the very end. It examines life and death, despair and faith, parenthood and marriage, the choices we make, and, most of all, love―making it a perfect choice for book clubs.”―Library Journal, Starred review
“Debut author Fabiaschi’s even tone and her characters’ bright intelligence inspire empathy… [and] explore the main theme: tragedy often has no reason, and those experiencing it must contend with the reasonlessness as well as the loss…. An earnest effort from a natural storyteller.”―Kirkus
From the publisher:
A story from debut author Abby Fabiaschi that is “as absorbing as it is illuminating, and as witty as it is heartbreaking.”
Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch…until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.
Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge…but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?
Now, Abby Fabiaschi reveals the intimate details of her debut novel …
John Valeri: What inspired you to write I Liked My Life – and to what do you credit returning to the story so many years after having started it?
Abby Fabiaschi: When I was fifteen years old, one of my closest friends died. Adding grief and guilt to my then raging hormones was an explosive experience for me. I matured quickly, but not gracefully; I became cynical. I Liked My Life started with a desire to explore mourning at that tender age. When I finished the draft, I failed to find an agent for it, so I started working on a different book. Years later, my father died. He was young, just 53, and it was unexpected, a catastrophic heart attack in his sleep. Grief sucked the creativity right out of me. I dove back into the corporate world where I knew my father’s every thought and opinion. Then one day I happened across I Liked My Life while looking for another document and felt compelled to revisit it. Having then also mourned as an adult and a parent, I was better able to represent the nuances of the grieving process at different stages in life.
JV: How can grief be channeled into positive action – and in what ways did writing this story allow you to explore your own stages of mourning?
AF: I have come to believe there is clarity to be gleaned from life’s most agonizing moments. Mourning can lead to a heightened perspective and refreshed priorities. The challenge is that these insights are at the expense of your suffering, so you have to be willing to digest the injustice of that.
I Liked My Life was an opportunity to unburden my loss onto unsuspecting characters. Putting to paper what they felt—what death took from them and what they learned from it—was healing for me.
JV: How has your background in advocacy and human rights informed your fiction – and what do you hope the story of the Starlings reveals about the intricacies of family dynamics?
AF: When I first started working with victims of human trafficking, I assumed getting survivors to safety was the most one could hope for. How could girls whose childhoods were stolen—in the most violent and vile of ways—heal to a point where laughter was even a possibility?
What I’ve learned, through their resilience and wisdom, is that you can choose to focus on the future instead of the past. These amazing ladies taught me the potency of being grateful for something I used to consider a birthright: freedom. By looking at what they’ve gained instead of all that was taken from them, survivors often find not just safety, but true joy.
The premise of I Liked My Life is sad, but it’s intended to be a story of redemption. Loss is sometimes a beginning, a catalyst for growth.
JV: The narrative is told through alternating perspectives. How does this enhance the overall story – and in what way does each character’s perspective help to define both themselves and others?
AF: There is a reason clichés become clichés, particularly this one: everyone grieves differently. I have experienced too many front row seats to this phenomenon. I Liked My Life isn’t about mourning generally, it’s about the reality that we must grieve around others who are also grieving, and the loss can at times feel competitive.
With suicide, there is also guilt and blame to process. Seeing the death through multiple perspectives allowed me to explore the layers of truth that exist in families and the assumptions we all make about each other’s day to day experience.
JV: You are donating a portion of your proceeds to worldwide charities that uplift women and children. What are your favorite causes – and how can readers get involved, should they wish to?
AF: Oh, I so appreciate this question. I’m passionate about economic solutions to severe social and cultural problems such as human trafficking, domestic abuse, and child marriage. I believe in the power of fiscal independence—providing training and education that lead to employment is an effective way to help victims remain forever free. If you’re interested in donating or learning more, visit www.herfuturecoalition.org.
With thanks to Abby Fabiaschi for her generosity of time and thought and to Katie Bassel of St. Martin’s Press for providing this interview opportunity.