Book Club Queen

Laura Moriarty: While I'm Falling
Book Club Discussion

February 9, 2010. Laura Moriarty chats about her book, While I'm Falling,
in an interview with Queenie C.

Book Club Discussion: Interview with Laura Moriarty

Book Club Queen
"Also when you think of me, when you picture me in your head, do you see me as a separate entity? Or do you only see me in relation to you?" This was a very interesting question that Natalie posed to her husband. Can you delve deeper into this for us? Have you ever sat back and really thought about how you view someone else?



Laura Moriarty
One of my friends once this asked this of a (pretty self-involved) boyfriend. It seems like a trick question, because you would think anyone would know how to answer it. But he admitted he could only see her in relation to himself. I give him credit for honesty, but she broke up with him not long after that, and she stayed single for a long time. (Now she's happily married - to someone else!) Anyway, this friend and the honest boyfriend - they'd been together for about seven years. This friend is a very kind, supportive person, the kind of person who might attract (and tolerate) the kind of guy who would have to admit something like that. Natalie seemed the same kind of person. She gave and gave to her family, and as a consequence, she found herself permanently fixed in their minds as someone not quite on their level of importance. Natalie might take some responsibility for having to ask that question - has she seen herself as a separate person, or as someone always in a supporting role? Can she blame her husband for starting to view her in relation to him when she'd built her world around supporting him and her daughters? Sure. But I felt bad for my friend, and I respected her for asking the question.



Book Club Discussion: Interview with Laura Moriarty


Book Club Discussion: Interview with Laura Moriarty

Book Club Queen
Elise was not a prominent character until the end of the story. Why is that?



Laura Moriarty
I was thinking about how some people surprise you. I love Grace Paley's "A Story for my Father" because it portrays people, as long as they are alive, as capable of surprising change. Even family members might not be able to guess what a person is going to do next. Elise was the designated go-getter, the successful lawyer, hard working and hard driving. Veronica had always been intimidated by the threat of comparison to Elise, and so it was unsettling, and maybe liberating, to have Elise decide to quit her job and have a baby. With whom is Veronica competing in the end?

I was also thinking of how so many of my friends have been in the difficult situation of having to choose between their careers and having children. I know you're not supposed to say that anymore, and it's true that some women get to do both. (I'm one of them: I write, teach, and I have a young daughter. I need more time for all three.) But I've seen friends give up jobs they worked for years to get because the hours and demands didn't work with motherhood, or because a higher-paid spouse got a job in another city. I think women still have to make hard decisions about children and financial independence. And I wanted to put Natalie in the difficult situation of having to show understanding and support of Elise's decision, though it mirrors the same decision (to stay home with children) that laid the groundwork for Natalie's current financial troubles. Parents have to do that all the time - watch children repeat their 'mistakes,' and wanting to stop them, even while admitting that they themselves might make the same 'mistakes' again.





Book Club Discussion: Interview with Laura Moriarty

Book Club Queen
While having a conversation about her marriage, Natalie pretended to "hear" something that wasn't really said. Why was it important for her to do that? Why do we do that? Does it set us up for disappointment or does it allow us to strive for what we think we've heard?



Laura Moriarty
I think people in unhappy relationships do that when they're too scared or too poor to leave.















Book Club Discussion: Interview with Laura Moriarty

Book Club Queen
Jimmy was a rude bully, to say the least. What was his importance in the story? I know that because of him, Natalie was able to take on the protector role for Veronica, but I believe that his inclusion in the story goes deeper than that. Even at the end he is mentioned. What can you tell us about him?



Laura Moriarty
Natalie's concern for her daughters, from the very beginning, is that they don't grow up making decisions based on fear. Jimmy is someone to fear, and so how Veronica learns to deal with him might inform how she learns to deal with the bigger, abstract fears - fear of failing, of disappointing others, of loneliness, of too much dependence on her kind boyfriend. I think bravery is the biggest gift Natalie gives Veronica even when her own life is messed up - even while she's falling. Actually it's not really an 'even while.' It's a 'because.' Natalie has lost so much that she's fearless. By the time she's lost everything, she's not afraid of Jimmy, or anything, and that's good for Veronica to see.

Jimmy's cruelty, I think, is motivated by his refusal to let go of a victimized version of himself in relation to his own family - he alludes to this quickly when he's getting out of the van. He's trapped in his version of his life story, with a static view of himself as an avenging victim. It limits his ability for empathy, to say the least. He's the opposite of Natalie.



Book Club Discussion: Interview with Laura Moriarty


Book Club Discussion: Interview with Laura Moriarty

Book Club Queen
Have you ever had the opportunity to revisit or drive past your old house? How did it make you feel?



Laura Moriarty
It's a strange feeling, isn't it? Your relationship with a dwelling is so intimate. Where you live is the container for life, really, and it's odd to think you can just move out and go your own way so someone else can live in the rooms where you once slept and ate and bathed, so they can stare at the same walls. For Natalie, the house represented so much: the marriage, family life, her "life's work." But you really can move on from those things. They're part of her identity. Not all of it. She's not like Jimmy. She can move on to a new phase of her life.









Book Club Discussion: Interview with Laura Moriarty

Book Club Queen
Can you tell us what you are working on next?



Laura Moriarty
I'm teaching at KU right now, so I'm writing very slowly, but I am writing, and I should have a new book finished by the end of the year. I don't want to say what it's about because I'm still making up my mind!














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