I’m not good at committing to one favorite book or author; I’ve loved so many books and authors over the years, all for unique reasons. I guess I’m something of a book whore. However, when it comes to what influenced me while writing Starring in the Movie of My Life, one book comes immediately to mind.
I Know This Much is True, by Wally Lamb, is not my usual type of read. It’s a little too dark and edgy to fit my tastes. It was given to me by husband’s cousin. He used to work in publishing, so he had access to tons of free books and he strongly recommended it.
I decided to give it a whirl. Early on I wasn’t sure I would stick with it. The story was a little slow, and the characters weren’t very likeable, and it was pretty dark. Then I took my car in to be serviced and I brought it along to read.
I held it when I went to the counter to pay, and the girl who was working there commented. “Oh my God,” she said. “I Know This Much is True is one of my all-time favorite books! By the end I couldn’t put it down!”
So I’ll admit it; my reaction was a little snobby. I thought, “If the girl who works at the Saturn dealership can finish this book, I can finish this book. I do teach English, after all.”
I committed to finishing it. It took a little while, but halfway through this 891 page book I was hooked, and like the girl at the Saturn dealership, towards the end I could not put it down. This was before I had kids, and I remember coming home on a Friday afternoon, sitting on the couch and reading well into the evening. Then I resumed reading Saturday morning, and I didn’t stop until the late afternoon when I was done.
I cried at the ending: partly because of the beauty of the writing. Lamb somehow managed to incorporate all the themes and meaning of his brilliant book into one final paragraph, and he ends with the title. It’s not at all forced; instead it’s organic and complete. I can say that of all the books I’ve ever read, I Know This Much is True has the most well written, satisfying ending.
I also cried when I finished it because it was over. You know that feeling when you’re dying to know what happens but you don’t want to be done? Lamb switched back and forth between sub-plots and created such marvelous suspense that every time I finished one chapter I was compelled to begin the next. Eventually these stories converged, and when they did, it was amazing.
So that’s what I attempted to do with Starring in the Movie of My Life. There are two storylines, Melody’s and Samantha’s, and I tried to end each chapter at a high point of interest, urging the reader to continue on until Melody and Samantha finally join together at the end of the book. I also chose to make redemption a major theme. Wally Lamb’s main character, Dominick, endures heartbreak and loss. He makes mistakes and becomes bitter. Yet by the end he finds redemption and closure, in a way where he can move on with his life. I wanted that for Melody and Samantha.
I’m not implying that Starring in the Movie of My Life is in any way equal to I Know This Much is True. Ultimately, these two books are very, very different, and I realize I have a lot to learn before I can even approach being the writer that Lamb is. However, if there is one book that has inspired me as a writer, one book I modeled my own book after, it is his.