I am so excited to be interviewing our next MomAdvice Book Club author today. In case you missed my unofficial announcement on Facebook, I decided to add one more summer selection since I am assuming we will have more time to read in the summer. The first reason is because I read this book, shut it, and immediately wanted to share it with you. The second reason is because Patry Francis is such an intriguing and inspiring woman that I know you will be just as swept away in her words and life as I was.
For our July selection for the MomAdvice Book Club, we will be discussing The Orphans Of Race Point. This book is absolutely stunning from start to finish. It was filled with words that begged to be read again because they felt like poetry to me. It is a beautifully woven story with big moral messages about love, forgiveness, and redemption. The plot twists? I never saw them coming, which happens rarely when you are an avid reader like I am. I will say now that you will see this book on my top ten books I read this year list and I have no doubt it will be in your top ten too!
Set in the close-knit Portuguese community of Provincetown, Massachusetts, The Orphans of Race Point traces the relationship between Hallie Costa and Gus Silva, who meet as children in the wake of a terrible crime that leaves Gus parentless. Their friendship evolves into an enduring and passionate love that will ask more of them than they ever imagined.
On the night of their high school prom, a terrible tragedy devastates their relationship and profoundly alters the course of their lives. And when, a decade later, Gus—now a priest—becomes entangled with a distraught woman named Ava and her daughter Mila, troubled souls who bring back vivid memories of his own damaged past, the unthinkable happens: he is charged with murder. Can Hallie save the man she’s never stopped loving, by not only freeing him from prison but also—finally—the curse of his past?
Told in alternating voices, The Orphans of Race Point illuminates the transformative power of love and the myriad ways we find meaning in our lives.
When I finished the final pages on this book, I contacted Patry to ask if she would participate in a discussion of her book with you and if I could interview her about her life. After doing some research on her, I knew that this is the kind of writer whose backstory was just as fascinating as her book. Patry graciously agreed to talk to me and you this summer!
Our book club discussion will be held on July 29th so be sure to order a copy of the book or put one on hold at your library. If you are anything like me, you will want this one for your bookshelf because it is a book worth rereading! Let’s dive in and learn more about the author behind this beautiful book!
Many moms put on hold their own ambitions to support and raise their families. You are a mom of four that supported them through a waitressing job and used pockets of time to write. What would you tell another mom who has put her dreams on hold to support her family?
My oldest son was born when I was just nineteen so children and the necessity of physically caring for them, learning what they needed most to develop their gifts, helping to support them financially–and just enjoying them– has always been woven into my story. However, writing was also a dream I’d nurtured since childhood, and I always believed that my commitment had to be as big as my dream. Though my priority was my family for many years, there was rarely a day when I didn’t find a stray hour, or even fifteen minutes, to devote to my goal. Since writing usually requires a a long apprenticeship, it’s not something that can be put off till “someday”–at least, not entirely. I was fortunate to have a husband who believed in me and demanded that the family take “Mom’s work” seriously.
Your words in your book, The Orphans of Race Point, read like poetry to me and you have such a beautiful way of weaving words that I found myself repeating the phrases out loud. Do these moments just flow out of you or is this something a writer has to develop and practice to achieve?
First of all, thank you for saying that! I wrote poetry in my early years, partly because I loved reading it, but also because it was easier to complete a draft in an hour, which gave me a sense of accomplishment. With fiction, I began like most writers do, by imitating writers I admired. At the time, I was reading a lot of novels about sophisticated singles living in urban settings. I emulated their style and even their subject matter, even though my own life and preoccupations couldn’t have been more different. It took practice before I trusted myself enough to write about characters who were more like people I knew, and issues that were really important to me. When my own voice finally emerged, it was like finding my wings.
I want to save our discussion of The Orphans of Race Point for this summer’s book club, but I loved the character of Gus, in all of his beauty and brokenness. How much of your husband’s work as a minister helped to shape the role of Gus in your book? Did he also help you with what he thought Gus might think, feel, or do in those pivotal moments?
I love this question because it allowed me to ponder something I hadn’t previously considered. (My husband,Ted, appreciated it, too! ) Gus, who is the heart of the novel for me, came in the mysterious, almost inexplicable way that the characters who haunt me most appear. The only way I could get to know him was by listening to his voice as I wrote. So in that sense, the answer is no. Neither my husband, nor anyone else could really help me.
However, the subconscious is another matter! In the childhood section of the novel, there is a scene in which Gus deliberately picks the weakest player for his baseball team because he feels the other boy’s shame at always being chosen last. When my husband, who was also very athletic as a kid, came upon that passage, he asked if I knew he had done that, too. I didn’t, but I can’t say it surprised me!
Ted has also done a lot of work in hospitals, and undoubtedly many of his stories about the patients he met, his openness to hearing their stories and offering them comfort helped me to understand Gus’s gift for working with the sick and the reason he found so much satisfaction in it.
I have witnessed the power of community & friendship through online writing and I know you have too. During the publishing of your very first book, you were diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, which should have been a true time of celebration for you and that moment. Your community of writers/bloggers came together (300 of them!) to encourage you and the sale of your book since you were having surgery and recovering during its release. Did that help you gain strength during that time? How are you feeling now?
When I first received my diagnosis, I planned to keep it private. But the connection I felt with my online community was so real and vital that eventually I decided to share my experience and how I was dealing with it on my blog in a post I called “Two Ounces of Bliss”. I knew my online community would be supportive–they always were–but I never could have predicted the incredible outpouring of kindness and generosity I received. Organized by my friends, Susan Henderson, Amy MacKinnon, Jessica Keener, and Tish Cohen, it swelled to include novelists like Khaled Hosseini and Neil Gaiman, who had never met me, but who took to the internet to promote a fellow writer who couldn’t do it for herself. Though I was pretty sick at the time, it was one of the most extraordinary days of my life, and it still lifts me up whenever I think about it.
I spent the next two years in and out of hospitals, but I’m currently in good health. If anything positive came from the experience (aside from witnessing the goodness of my communities, both real and virtual) it was that that I no longer take anything for granted. Whether it’s sharing a cup of tea with a friend, enjoying a family milestone, or bringing the novel I began twelve years ago to readers, I’m keenly aware of how lucky I am to be here.
What is a book other than your own which you would recommend?
It’s hard to choose only one, but Amy Greene’s, LONG MAN has everything I look for in a novel: a compelling protagonist named Annie Clyde who faces impossible odds with great courage and resilience, an engrossing plot, and a setting so vivid, you really feel as if you are there.
I look forward to discussing The Orphans of Race Point with you in July! A huge thank you to our featured writer, Patry Francis, for sharing her heart this Sunday with us!