To continue the ponderings of the last post….
There’s a Gwyneth Paltrow movie from the late 90s called SLIDING DOORS that rides on the theme of the fraught nexus. Paltrow’s character is running to catch a train and the door is about to slide shut. From that point the viewer sees two paths for her life, shown in parallel. In one she catches the train and gets home earlier than expected. There she finds an unwelcome surprise that puts her life on a different path. In the other storyline she misses the train and her life plods along on the same (unsatisfactory) trajectory it was on before. Everything about her life hinges on what happens in that one fleeting moment.
Maybe becoming aware of what came before makes us more appreciative, or maybe it informs us about ourselves in new ways—maybe we suddenly realize that we came to be stubborn (undaunted? It’s all in your perspective) as a birthright when we find out an ancestor tried–and failed–a dozen times before he finally hit upon a successful business. Or maybe we can trace a sunny disposition back to the great-grandmother who smiled for her portraits even in the days when a more somber expression was in vogue.
The mystery writer in me is also drawn to the things left hidden, the family secrets hinted about, but never told. The ghost of a whisper that comes down through the generations, lingering within the family, but never fully acknowledged. These are the kinds of secrets my genealogy protagonist, Sophreena McClure, uncovers in PAGING THE DEAD, the first in my Family History Mystery series from Gallery. And since not all family secrets can be dug out of the family archives, I’ve given her a partner with the gift of being able to SOMETIMES hear the dead (it’s a cantankerous and sporadic gift). It was a fun book to write and I hope it will inspire some people to begin researching their own family histories. In the meantime, I’m feeling really lucky to be here.
If you’d like to play what-if with your own family history, start with your parents and think about all the decisions, plans, disruptions and kismet that had to happen in precise order for you to have come into the world.