What are you currently reading?
“As usual, I’m reading too many books at once. I’m reading Lost by Jacqueline Davies — it’s a new YA [young adult] novel about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. I didn’t intend to start it, but I picked it up and read the first chapter, and now I’m about three chapters in. And I just finished Graceling by Kristin Cashore; it’s another YA novel — a fantasy. Gracelings are people born with these extreme gifts — in this case, a fighting grace. At the age of eight, the protagonist discovers, accidentally, that she’s a deadly killer. I read a lot of YA for my daughter; both to know what to recommend and so that we can talk about them. Like me, she thinks books are much more fun that way.”
Any grown-up books?
“I just finished The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale. Mormon housewife, soon to be mother of four, bumps into — and becomes good friends with — a British movie star/heartthrob. The banter between them is very funny, and the story of becoming friends with a movie star is engaging. And I’m reading The Pretend Wife by Bridget Asher. It’s about a thirty-something married woman who runs into her old college boyfriend whose mother is dying. The mother’s dying wish is for her son to get married, and he says that he did, and now she wants to meet the new bride. So, he’s asking his old college girlfriend to be his pretend wife for a weekend.”
Who is your favorite character?
“So far, I guess it’s the boyfriend. He’s regretting this dumb thing he did — telling his mom he got married was just a weak, impulsive thing to say. He’s conflicted; he thinks he should come clean, but other people are urging him, ‘No, no no — this pretend-wife thing is a great idea.’ He’s a little bit of an outsider — sort of aloof and wry and a little cynical. He reminds me a lot of my husband.”
Who is your favorite author?
“I’ll go with my gut — Fred Chappell. He’s a Southern writer, and he writes magical realism. He’ll be telling a story about real people, completely believable, and then all of a sudden, completely unbelievable, tall-tale things are happening. I Am One of You Forever is probably my favorite of his books. The main character is this teenager in a mountain family who is visited by this series of odd relatives. One uncle has this super-long beard, and then all of a sudden, things start coming out of the beard. It’s wonderful. His prose reads like poetry, but not in a high literary, wear-you-out way. His characters are incredibly funny and real.”
What book was most life-changing for you?
“That’s an enormous question for me. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis was the book that led to my conversion. And Little Men by Louisa May Alcott gave me the vision of the kind of childhood I wanted to provide for my kids. Jo is married and has the school for boys in her home, and there are a couple of girls in there, too. I loved the picture of this big, rowdy, happy, mischievous bunch of kids who are constantly getting into trouble but always pulling together. Also, the way education is seamlessly integrated into the home life.”
Do you read any magazines or newspapers?
“I read Home Education Magazine. And I read Muse because my daughter is always saying, ‘Mom, you have to read this article!’”
Do you talk to your friends about reading?
“I do. My husband and I try to read a lot of each other’s books, so that we can discuss them. I’m constantly begging people to read books, so that we can talk about them.”
Name: Melissa WIley | Age: 40 | Occupation: Author
Neighborhood: La Mesa | Where interviewed: In her home