Yes, I’m a good writer. But I’m also lucky duck. And I fully acknowledge there are many, many other good writers who don’t end up publishing their first novel with a major house who endows them with a wondrous team to publicize said novel and get it out there!
One of those writers is my new friend, Erika Raskin, another sprightly woman of a certain age (although not nearly my age) who landed on a panel with me at the Virginia Festival of the Book. And if that had not happened, I probably would never have had the pleasure of reading her truly engaging and thought-provoking first novel, Close. Or interviewing her for The Spark, my weekly feature on public radio station WMRA.
Close is published by the excellent, but tiny press, Harvard Square Editions (HSE), which, according to its website, ” is a publishing house run by Harvard alumni that grew out of the Harvard Alumni Association group, Harvard Writers and Publishers.” Tiny presses do great, fantabulous work by publishing novels that don’t attract the attention of a major house, but tiny presses don’t usually have deep enough pockets to throw in promotion along with publication.
Close tells the story of how a respectable and responsible and intelligent single mother, her three children, and her ex-husband end up talking to a TV psychologist about their personal business, i.e. airing their dirty linen in front of millions of strangers. There is, naturally, fall-out from this, which all makes for a deeply touching, deeply recognizable family struggle. Close, to me, reads just as life lives: One damn thing after another happens relentlessly to nice, well-meaning people, who then must struggle to maintain sanity while doing right by those they love.
I gobbled up Close and was truly sorry when it was over. Erika Rasin’s writing is sharp and lovely; the characters are people I feel I know; the story is told so well that it stays with me as experience rather than fiction.
Okay then, let’s cut to the chase. I have appointed myself (without Erika knowing a thing about it) this novel’s cheerleader. Close deserves to sell a lot of copies, not languish in obscurity. So if you’re looking for a good read, take it from me: Buy Close! You’ll like it!