In ‘Double Exposure’ we introduce readers to a book they may have missed first time round and the author’s new publication as a way of widening the readership of writers we feel deserve greater attention.
Step forward Kim Edwards
Kim Edwards was born in Killeen, Texas but grew up in upstate New York and is now a professor at the University of Kentucky. Although she had stories published in several American magazines, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter was her first novel and became a word-of-mouth bestseller, partly, we’d like to think, because it was a featured book in nb39 back in May 2007.
So successful was the book – it sold more than 4 million copies – that it has its own website, separate from Kim’s personal website. The Lake of Dreams is her new novel and tells of another family haunted by the past. But here, we let Kim take over the story…
I grew up in the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York, named after the long, deep bodies of water formed when glaciers retreated and dug out ancient river beds. From the air, it looks as if a hand has left an imprint in the green rolling hills. This place, once the land of the Iroquois, was also the site of many progressive movements for social justice that rose up during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
As a child and a teenager, I’m afraid I took both the beauty and the history somewhat for granted. I knew, of course, that the women’s suffrage movement had started in Seneca Falls, NY when the first Women’s Rights Convention was held in 1848. While I knew this fact was important, it also seemed distant, not of immediate concern to me growing up.
And yet it wasn’t ancient history, not at all.My grandmothers were born in 1902 and 1903. They had come of age in an era when women could not vote and their lives were certainly shaped by the narrow expectations and opportunities for women. Though they were both smart, neither one had the chance to study beyond the 8th grade in school.One grandmother worked as a telephone operatorand eventually trained as a nurse. The other worked in a factory.
I started thinking about my grandmothers in new ways as I wrote this novel in which Lucy Jarrett, nearing 30, has returned to her home town to visit her mother, and also to come to terms with her grief and guilt over her father’s drowning in a boating accident a decade earlier.
As I wrote Lucy’s story, I also began reading about the rich history of this area and soon I found myself writing about Rose, an ancestor of Lucy’s who had been erased from the family stories due to her involvement with the suffrage movement.
My research on Rose took me to Seneca Falls, a charming 19th-century village where Elizabeth Cady Stanton lived in a simple clapboard farmhouse and where she wrote The Declaration of Sentiments while raising her children and running the household and a small farm. The Declaration of Sentiments was signed and read out loud at the convention in 1848, but none of these women lived to cast a vote. The struggle for women’s suffrage took 72 long years. During this time many women made sacrifices and took courageous risks and went to jail so that we, their descendents, could enjoy equality and freedom.
The story of Rose in The Lake of Dreams takes place in the last two decades of this struggle, when the movement for women’s suffrage grew especially intense and focused. Though Rose’s story is fictional, it grew out of history. And just as Rose’s story transforms Lucy’s understanding of her family and herself, my own journey into history has helped me appreciate more fully and more deeply the lives and sacrifices of the strong women who came before me.’