Forgetting Ophelia is the new novel from Julie C. Gardner (released today by Velvet Morning Press.) She’s joined me today to talk about her life in books. Over to you, Julie.
I owe my obsession with reading, at least in part, to my sister Nancy. More specifically to her tonsils. I was seven and my sister was six the year my family drove from California to Texas to spend Christmas with our cousins. On the way, Nancy broke out in yet another of her fevers, her throat swelling up, her tonsils the size of tennis balls. It was a truly miserable situation.
Why? Because Nancy, who was my only playmate on this road trip, was suddenly quarantined. No more alphabet games in the backseat of our car. No songs or hand-slapping routines.
On a pit stop at my Aunt Elaine’s house in Arizona, my aunt took pity on me and my loneliness, whisking me away to a local bookstore where she bought me The Secret of the Old Clock.
I curled up with my new mystery, gobbling the adventures of this titian blonde named…Nancy.
The love was instantaneous. I wanted to be a titian blonde. I wanted to BE Nancy Drew.
I read every book of hers I could get my hands on. Then the Trixie Belden series. Harriet the Spy. A Wrinkle in Time. Island of the Blue Dolphins. By the time I was ten, I decided to be Judy Blume, not merely devour all her books.
When I was in fifth grade, my parents took me to a bank where they were handing out free copies of James A. Michener’s Hawaii. The book was roughly the size of a toaster. As I announced my plan to read all 1,000 pages of this sprawling saga, my parents chuckled. “Go ahead!” (Of particular interest were the sexy scenes, since I’d recently watched my school’s puberty films.)
By then my sister had had her tonsils removed, and I’d moved on to Little Women, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities. A bevy of classics littered my nightstand and saved me from being completely boy-crazy. (Rest assured, I was still plenty boy-crazy. Just ask Nancy and my parents.)
In high school I discovered Stephen King who renewed my desire to one day become an author myself. This lofty goal, however, was something I envisioned happening later, after I’d established a career. Such was my passion for reading and writing, I became an English teacher. For 16 years I tried my best to imbue a love of literature in my students.
Eventually I met and married a man who also loves books. (And me.) With his encouragement, I took a leave of absence from the classroom to pursue my dream of writing. Two kids, three novels, and one novella later, I think he’s proud of me.
Every night we read before bedtime. On weekends you’ll find us in the backyard, each with a glass of wine and a good novel. (He’s more of a James Patterson and Chardonnay guy, while I prefer Sauvignon Blanc and Tana French.)
Did I mention I’m employed by the library now? Yes, I’m currently fulfilling a book-lovers hat-trick by working at two branches in the City of Thousand Oaks.
English teacher. Author. Library employee.
I’m pretty much the luckiest.
I’ve spent my entire adult life surrounded by beautiful words, chasing gorgeous sentences, falling in love with language. And this reality is all because my little sister once had a faulty set of tonsils.
So thank you, dearest Nancy. You and your bad throat will forever mean the world to me. I hope you’ve forgiven my childhood selfishness.
But I dedicated Forgetting Ophelia to you. Just in case.
Julie’s a lapsed marathon runner and former high school English teacher who traded in her classroom for a writing nook. The author of Lily by Any Other Name, Letters for Scarlet, and its prequel Guest List, Julie lives in Southern California with her husband, two children, and three dogs. When she’s away from my computer, she can be found with a good book, a glass of wine, or a pair of running shoes. Her best days feature all of the above.
My verdict on Forgetting Ophelia…
Ever-hopeful Lia thinks she’ll be with handsome, brooding Jake forever. Until one day he completely blindsides her and makes her question everything she knows…
Lia Townsend is expecting a ring and a trip to Hawaii for her fifth wedding anniversary. Instead, her husband, Jake, walks out on her. Out of the blue.
Devastated, Lia vows to win back Jake and the perfect life they shared. Because it was perfect, wasn’t it?
But as Lia searches for the truth behind Jake’s departure, cracks in the shiny varnish begin to show. And once she uncovers his secret, all that she once knew and believed in crumbles.
Lia’s eccentric mother, her best friend, and two vastly different men each pull her in new directions, and Lia attempts to push past the pain and start anew.
But Jake isn’t gone for good. When an accident rocks the lives of their best friends, Lia and Jake are thrown together. Will Lia choose to salvage her old life with the man who broke her heart – or was everything they shared an illusion?
Lia feels that she’s been pretty lucky. She’s in a job she’s content in and she’s happily married to Jake… or so she thought.
Instead of a nice surprise for their fifth anniversary, Jake leaves her making her question everything she knows.
Lia is having such a tragic time in her life at the beginning of the novel. I wanted to jump into the book and give her a hug.
The story is as much about finding herself. She’s alone and now has to relearn how to navigate everything.
I feel that many people reading this will empathise with her.
The supporting characters are well placed. The plot moves along well. There are many twists and turns.
Without saying too much (I don’t want to give away the story,) there are some sweet sections as well as sad and frustrating ones. There are also life affirming moments too.
This is a wonderful novel – one I got fully invested in. I recommend it.
Forgetting Ophelia was released on October 8th by Velvet Morning Press.