Watch out for the Goodreads giveaway of the book until February 13th
Now that her husband George is dead, middle-aged homemaker Alice Owens thinks his oppressive reign over her life has ended–but she is wrong. George thwarts her attempts at freedom, mentally and physically, from beyond the grave.
Back from a routine grocery-shopping trip, Alice discovers her husband George slumped over their kitchen table, as dead as her love for him. Hoping it’s the beginning of bringing her strangled life to an end, she starts preparing for the arrival of her adult children–a daughter who hates her and a needy son–who will inevitably show up for the funeral. But while cleaning out George’s belongings, Alice stumbles across enigmatic documents linking him to an African-American charity and a heinous crime committed over thirty years prior.
Alice finds herself grappling not only with memories of her marriage’s turbulent past, but with murder and infidelity from George’s secret double life pushing themselves into her present.
Will Alice finally gain the freedom she’s always desired? Or will George’s secrets take her over the edge
“Emancipating Alice” by Ada Winder is a book I have been looking forward to read for some time and stayed at the bottom of my pile as incentive to do less promising work. I knew from the first page onwards I was going to like this and I was right about that.
After over 30 years of marriage George dies and his widow Alice needs to come to terms with her loss and her memories. A very sentimental but incredibly well done and touching first part tells us about the first few days after the death and – in flashbacks – how the couple met and how they fell in love. Gradually we learn more about the seemingly happy and perfect family and come to realise that not all was or is well in the family relations. Thoughts of sacrifices and missed opportunities loom as the end of that particular road has arrived.
Winder writes with such an empathetic voice and great psychological understanding of her characters that I found it very hard to believe that these were not real people and Alice not Ada herself, that convincing is the writing and the heartfelt tone of Alice’s voice. I found it all the more touching, yet Alice is far from the one-dimensional grief-struck widow that this review begins to make her out to be. But I must leave that all for you to explore yourself.
Part two hands the story over to George and his perspective, where we learn more about his private life and his reasons for the various choices and actions he took in his life.
This book is a piece of art; with the description of the family rows and animosities and the funeral itself this has transgressed far beyond the simple tale of a death, it has become the story of an entire family and their secrets, lies and problems. The book is sad and reflective in many parts but also fast moving and emotional in many other ways. As far as you can ever fairly compare writers to each other this is somewhat reminiscent of the writings of Lionel Shriver and Anne Tyler, two of my favourite authors but that is by no means an accusation of imitation but a huge compliment from the reviewer. “Emancipating Alice” writes honest and perceptive about human nature just as much as Shriver and Tyler do, so all three are “stealing” from the same pool of inspiration called life.
Amazing. Go and get it!
Interview with Ada Winder
How did you come to writing in the first place?
You’ve probably heard this a lot by now, but writing actually came to me–very easily, very young. I was working on my first novel by the time I was nine and had produced tons of short stories and poetry before then (and continued to do so).
I think it has to do with reading early–I’d learned at the age of two and read voraciously thereafter. Plus I’ve always been terribly introverted; it’s only natural I think for me to prefer communicating through writing.
When did you first have the idea for this book? Why this subject?
Emancipating Alice started off as two separate short story ideas, but the way the two began playing themselves out in my mind made me realize they could actually be part of the same story.
I was participating in my very first National Novel Writing Month and in the planning stage, tested out several ideas for viability. While outlining, this two-became-one project persevered–I think because one of its subplots came ready-made as a result of the merger!
How did you think of those characters?
The characters kind of populated themselves, inspired by me being a witness to some unhappy relationships. The main characters–Alice and George–showed up clearly when it was only about them as a short story. Then in planning the novel, others presented themselves–their children for example. Then of course, a few unplanned ones sort of came out of nowhere while writing, letting me know that this story was part of their story too, and for some, they ended up having a much larger part in how things played out than I imagined when they first showed up.
Do you have a favourite character in the book?
I do actually, and it ended up being one of those unplanned characters: Miriam, George’s sister. She’s sort of like me–a bit odd, quirky. But then again, all the women in the novel are sort of like me one way or another.
How long did it take you to write?
I wrote the first draft in under a month. But at some point, I realized I didn’t like the ending; it struck me as wrong. I had to let it sit as my subconscious worked on it. Then about two years later, how it should end–and how I should get there–became clear.
How many rewrites did it take you?
There was just that one major rewrite with the requisite adding and subtracting of elements to match the new ending. From there it was just editing. I have to say, this is the only long project that came to me almost ‘full-grown,’ and I’m waiting, hoping to have such an experience again.
Who are your favourite authors / influences?
I read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment some months before I wrote Emancipating Alice and fell madly in love with his writing, the way he delved into psychology. I also read Richard Flanagan’s The Sound of One Hand Clapping a few years before writing the novel and it blew my mind; it was the most beautiful, moving book I’d ever read. The author weaved in the backgrounds of its main characters–childhood events and various traumas–so that no matter how they acted, or what terrible things they did, you understood.
The way I wrote Emancipating Alice was influenced by me wanting desperately to present characters similarly–to give a hint or more as to why characters acted the way they did, why they would respond one way versus another, what affect their choices had on them. My goal was to have their actions understandable–no matter how ‘bad’ or ‘evil,’ or even banal. I can’t say if I succeeded or not, but I hope I did them some justice.
I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the short story: “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman–that was probably an influence as well. And I’m also a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, but I’m not sure if he got in there.
Who would play your characters in a movie?
Meryl Streep would play everyone I think–her first, multi-character movie like Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor.
But seriously, Meryl Streep. For Alice at least.
What is your next project and where would we be likely to hear about them?