It is the early 1960’s. The Campbell family moves from their Philadelphia row home to a larger house in a suburb where they believe they will have a better life. For a while, they do. The parents, devoted grandmother and five children start each day with a song. Bonded by their happiness, they protect the one child who suffers from a neurological condition from abuse and negativity. The family’s joy is their strength. Unfor-tunately, it is also their demise. The Campbell’s cheer-fulness entices a neighbor — someone whom they helped in a time of need — to inflict irrevocable harm upon them. Struck hard by this tragedy none of them can fathom, each of the Campbells reacts in a way that is uncharacteristic. With their closeness shattered, their future relies on the one child who believes she has neither the perseverance nor the resilience to bring them home once again
“Cry Before Supper” by Julia Rose Grey was a real treat. The author tells the story of Annie Campbell, beginning in 1961 when the family lives in a suburb in Philadelphia: 5 children, a grandmother and a dog. The story is told in Annie’s youthful and beautiful voice, at times naive, at times, melancholic and later stronger and assertive. We learn about the family background, the sibling rivalries, neighbourhood gossip, the morals and ideas of the times and the special blend of family values that the Campbells live by and how these evolve as the story moves into the 70s and the children make their own way.
This is written like a memoir, so real and moving that I often had to remind myself that this is a work of fiction.
The youngest child, Michael, suffers from the neuro-genetic disorder Angelman Syndrome, but forms a special bond with the grandmother who helps him speak and work in the greenhouse with her. Michael and his Syndrome are a big part of the story and Annie’s life as she sees her elder siblings disappear to lead their own lives.
A big part of the story is told in letters to and by Annie to her sister at Harvard while Annie stays behind to look after Michael and her ill mother.
“They that laugh in the morning may weep before night” is a Scottish saying quoted in the book as is the song “Sing before breakfast”. The title Cry Before Supper in that context brings in a wonderful resolve to have spent the tears before moving on to a happier supper.
As sentimental as the tome of this novel can be at times, it is moving and uplifting in many ways. I loved the honest and descriptions and the integrity of Annie, her love for the family and the strong bond that seems to exist between the siblings despite all of their differences.
It rings very true of the idea that I have of the 1960s in suburban America, much of it sounded all too familiar to my own upbringing in Europe in the 1970s.
This book is a truly wonderful read, it leaves you happy and elevated and with a craving for the lovely characters of the Campbell family.
Interview with Julia Rose:
How did you come to writing in the first place?
I’ve always liked writing, fiction or non-fiction. In school I would do short stories. I even did a parody of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven in which I lamented having to do homework. The teacher loved it and made me read it out loud in class. In my career, I was able to write proposals and did a lot of editing for others. I’ve always wanted to write a novel.
How autobiographical do you feel your book is?
I think most fiction writers take things from what they know most and I certainly did. I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia in the late 1950s, early 1960s and my father died when I was in my early 20’s. But he wasn’t murdered. Our grandmother lived with us, but we didn’t have five children and none of us was impaired in any way.
The funny thing is that my sister said that both Annie and Crosey contain parts of each of us. I guess they do. As a writer, though, I think it is better not to try to make characters a certain way, but, instead, make the characters what they need to be for the story.
When did you first have the idea for this book?
I’ve had the idea about writing this novel for at least five years.
How long did it take you to write?
It took me several years to write it. This was my first major work and I made a lot of mistakes.
What would you say is the main message of the book? What was your motivation to write this story?
I don’t think I wrote with an intentional message. I just like to write heart-warming tales about people using their wits to overcome tragedy or to deal with obstacles life puts in front of them.
Did you know what was going to happen in the book or did the story unfold itself?
I knew what was going to happen. I made an outline and, although I changed some chapters from my original outline, having a plan works better for me. Then I know how to develop the story or characters and can make decisions about chapter length, scene length.
How do you research the details of the times?
I do a lot of research on the internet to make sure the dates and details are accurate.
Who is your favourite character and why?
It is really difficult to answer this question. With the exception of the villains (including not-quite-Brando and Mr Hackett), I try to make each of the characters as appealing as possible. I have to like them – even Betsy – to make them likeable to the reader.
How do you write? What is your writing environment like?
I’m going to answer these as two separate questions. I initially get a black and white composition book and just write my ideas down. I scribble as fast as I can, for as many days or weeks as I can, first thing in the morning when my dreams are still heavy upon me. Then, I organize what I have into an outline. Then I take my scribbles and put them into chapters. Then I fill out the chapters and make changes I need. From there, I edit the heck out of it.
My writing environment is quiet, except for the background classical music. I keep things tidy (for the most part) so I can find something when I’m looking for it. I keep the book, outline, research, background and timeline in a binder.
How many rewrites did it take you?
It is difficult for me to come up with an exact number. I rewrite sections, some more than others, until I feel I’ve done my best. I don’t keep track. I focus on the work to be done.
Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books?
At the current time, I use local artists and editors who don’t charge within my shoe-string budget. I also performed my usual proofing technique, by reading the book backwards, sentence by sentence. As yet, I have no content editor because I have not been able to afford one.
Who are your favourite authors / influences?
This is an easy question. Philippa Gregory is my current-day historical fiction author. I like the classics: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Victor Hugo. The best way to see what I like to read is on my Goodreads account. I like to read a wide range of genres.
Who would play your characters in a movie?
I don’t have a clue. There are so very many excellent actors and actresses out there I wouldn’t know where to begin.
What are your next projects and where would we be able to hear about them?
My holiday story, The Dream Catcher, is almost ready to publish next November. And I am working on my second novel, Other Side of Ten, hoping to publish in late summer. My third novel is in the composition-book phase.
You may contact me at my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
My web presence includes:
Website and a blog entitled “All things retro…all things classic” (My friends came up with that title),
Amazon’s Author Central
Goodreads Author Page