And… published author.
I just finished reading her novel, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis last night, and to say that it affected me deeply would be to say too little. The story of a courageous little girl growing up in despicable circumstances resonated too well with me.
So when the focus of the book became the rescue of this little girl, I was understandably captivated.
Andra doesn’t share much fiction on her blog, and so many readers will only be familiar with her voice as it comes through her personal anecdotes. If that’s your only experience of her writing, you are in for a big surprise. I have a particularly picky palate for prose, and I found myself absolutely enthralled at the switches in perspective that Andra used, changing the narrative voice from the little girl, Emmaline, to her protector Merry. And then, occasionally, to the slimy, depraved thoughts of the book’s villain, The Judge. All of these she handles masterfully and convincingly. The innocence of Emmaline is the bright light of the book, and those moments where she demonstrates the ways in which her childhood has been stolen from her are heartbreaking.
The story itself is fast paced, and full of tension. I can honestly say that I don’t think there was ever a point — not even in the last 50 pages or so — where I was certain of the outcome.
I remember speaking to Andra about this book a couple of months ago (yes, darlings, be ever so jealous — Andra is one of only two people who have ever spoken to me on the phone) and she was telling me “Why Meriwether Lewis.” I had to tell her that all I knew of the man was his partnership with Clark, and that’s pretty much it.
“And that’s the point,” she said (or something quite like it, darlings. There are those who accuse me of being an unreliable narrator, but I swear I do my best to recreate the spirit of things, if not the actual transcript.). “He’s all but relegated to a footnote in American history, when he should have been a hero. My story, in some ways, sets about to remedy that.”
“But why him?” I asked. “Surely what you’re describing could apply to anyone whose legacy was tarnished, or who didn’t realize their potential.”
“I didn’t choose him, darling,” she said with her delightful accent, “he chose me. We don’t get to choose the ghosts that haunt us, Helena.”
“You called me darling,” I remarked with a grin.
“Yes,” she agreed, and I can only hope she was grinning, too. “Yes, I did.”
She wouldn’t tell me anymore about the story, telling me that she preferred for it to speak for itself when the time came.
This past week, the time came, darlings, and it spoke loudly and clearly about selflessness, courage, and love.
To Live Forever will be a book that you treasure and share, and when you’re done, there’s only one question you’ll be asking (perhaps in the voice of a certain Dickensian street urchin): Please, Andra, can I have some more?