Friday, December 16, 2011

12 Days of Christmas With Gwendolen Cross


12 Days of Christmas Extravaganza is being brought to you by Peggy at Pawing Through Books, Jennifer at Books and Barks, and myself. 
Each day for the next 12 days each of our blogs will feature a different author. There will be guest posts, interviews and giveaways! So be sure to stop at each blog to join in the fun!



A special thank you to all the authors who are participating and those who have donated prizes!

MerrChristmas!

Today's guest is:

Gwendolen Cross

Technically, this is not about Christmas—or about Hanukah or Kwanza, either. But it is about sisters, the caramel core of my novel, The Orphan Sister, and about the compressed pleasure and boredom of family vacations.
My sister Claudia was the first cold water swimmer to cross the Sitka Sound, up there in Alaska. Someday I hope we’ll go with her, my utterly entertained children and my husband and I, to see what amazing things she does up there to fundraise for important causes, and because she is spectacular at bridging distances with the regular work of her strong arms. Meanwhile, I’m left in the northeast to reminisce about family vacations when Claudia and I were kids.
First, we went camping. I don’t remember a whole lot about family camping (but for a long time in young adulthood it was my preferred mode of vacation, because it costs so little), but I do remember losing my Sierra cup to a waterfall—oh, the intense loss of children, who have so little under their control. But I learned something: sometimes it’s okay to let go, and sometimes it is not.
The family story goes that I was about one and Claudia was four, and my parents noticed she wasn’t right where they’d left her (paddling pretend stick boats across invented sounds of spilt drinking water, perhaps?), and they found her, sitting happily in a patch of poison ivy, eating it. She didn’t have an allergic reaction, but if anyone can eat posion ivy and have a better immune system for it, it’s Claudia.
Later, we went to Vermont. By then we had a little sister, Rebecca, who ran about in a blaze of blond hair and blue eyes, naked but for a sheet, flashing the cows. Claudia and I set up at the Holiday Home, a rickety rental house with a million house flies and evocative clapboards, even a handpainted sign, that sat across the road from the lake. We walked down the lake path together, dove deep into the cold Vermont lake, and trekked, one stroke at a time, from marker rock to marker rock. We became swimmers because that was one place to go. We also collected different rocks from the path, pounded them with something harder (a clay conglomerate mashed with granite, for example) and made ourselves face paints. We paddled the canoe past the lake houses, looking to see how people lived when they weren’t worried about money, looking to see if their docks were smoother, looking for friends, but we didn’t really need any.
Later, there were swim lessons at the lake at 730am, when our teachers had finished morning farm chores and the cows were grazing. Claudia was always the first in the water, and she was always patient if there was something I couldn’t do. We wandered the one gift shop in town dreaming of carved wood birds and we bickered, I’m sure, but that’s not what I remember.
In the winter, once our family had our own second house, miles from the lake and endowed with tragic circumstances (the woman who had it built died before it was completed; the next couple broke like a vase on a marble floor), we cross-country skied across the trails maintained by the Greensboro Lodge. We went out for hours, came back to the woodstove and good cooking. We shared a bed for some of that time, and I both chafed against the company and found it comfort against the rest of the world. Now, when my son wakes, he smells like my sister Claudia—a comfort, again.
Vermont was a place of boredom (letters to best friends, decorated envelopes, hours at the Greensboro library hoping for something I hadn’t already read, hours in the Willie’s Store looking at plaid wool shirts as if they were a couture delight (never our forte), penny candy, watching the horror of flies on fly paper in the house. It was a place of family tragedy, about which I will not go into detail. It was also a place where we found entertainment in each other’s company, in the company of green moss fairy beds and hikes from cowguarded pasture to glacial-contoured sweet hills, frosted in snow or leaves.
Claudia moved to Wisconsin for college, and on to Nepal, then Virginia, then San Diego, where we overlapped for a few years. She took me kayaking, we went swimming in the cove with our husbands, we mountain biked and even went cross-country skiing an hour away in the mountains. And it was a comfort to sit together in a café, working on our very different works, keeping company.
I’ve since moved back east, and I miss the comfort of a sister so close. Rebecca, our little sister, lives in Boston. Samantha, our half-sister twenty years younger than I, visits sometimes from law school. I learned when it’s okay to let go, and when you need to hold on, even over the distance of memory, the thousands of pounds of waterfall pressure, the continent.

Gwedolen is the author of THE ORPHAN SISTER:

The Orphan Sister

Clementine Lord is not an orphan. She just feels like one sometimes. One of triplets, a quirk of nature left her the odd one out. Odette and Olivia are identical; Clementine is a singleton. Biologically speaking, she came from her own egg. Practically speaking, she never quite left it. Then Clementine’s father—a pediatric neurologist who is an expert on children’s brains, but clueless when it comes to his own daughters—disappears, and his choices, both past and present, force the family dynamics to change at last. As the three sisters struggle to make sense of it, their mother must emerge from the greenhouse and leave the flowers that have long been the focus of her warmth and nurturing.
For Clementine, the next step means retracing the winding route that led her to this very moment: to understand her father’s betrayal, the tragedy of her first lost love, her family’s divisions, and her best friend Eli’s sudden romantic interest. Most of all, she may finally have found the voice with which to share the inside story of being the odd sister out. ..
I have heard many awesome things about this book and am looking forward to reading it. I haven't yet only because I was told not to buy it until after Christmas.  Guess we know what that means. 
In addition Gwendolen has written:
The Other Mother: A Novel  Getting Out: A Novel  Field Guide: A Novel

You can find out more on Gwendolen on her website: http://www.gwendolengross.com


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