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I Liked My Life: Learning to Learn From Pain

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I Liked My Life

I LIKED MY LIFE
Abby Fabiaschi

(St Martin’s Press, January 2017)
ISBN: 978-1250084873

Fabiaschi-Abby-portrait

Abby Fabiaschi

Audio interviewAuthorlink Audio Interview with Abby Fabiaschi

 Audio Length: 15 minutes

Abby Fabiaschi’s debut novel, I LIKED MY LIFE (St Martin’s Press, January 2017) leaves one to ponder: If you live your life for other people can you truly be happy? And what becomes of those you served once you’re gone. 

Written with the domestic insight of Jodi Picoult, reminiscent in style to Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and exploring dimensional narratives as in The Lovely Bones, Fabiaschi is a remarkable new literary talent who lives up to the exceptional praise of those in the publishing profession–so much so that below this summary of her book and beyond the Authorlink audio interview, we have printed how this book came about in Abby’s own words. Every writer should approach his or her stories with the passion Abby lends to her very first work.

I LIKED MY LIFE unfurls the story of the Starlings, a seemingly happy family whose matriarch, Madeline, dies tragically in what is deemed a suicide. Madeline was a model wife and mother who chose to stay at home after many successful years in the corporate world; she was the glue that held her family together. Through alternating points of view, Fabiaschi reveals her characters: Madeline, postmortem, as she attempts to make things right for her family; Brady, as he struggles to balance his high-powered career with the demands of single fatherhood; and Eve, as grief thrusts her into adulthood and she grapples to find her identity without her mother by her side. The result is a “vivid, gripping”** and achingly beautiful portrait of a father and daughter trying to redefine their understanding of family and a striking depiction of the transcendent power of unconditional love.

In explaining her inspiration for the story, Fabiaschi writes, “I was inspired by a sentiment from Adrienne Rich’s poetry: If we could learn to learn from pain even as it grasps us. I love the idea that slivers of beauty exist in life’s most agonizing moments, if only you know where to look. Madeline, Eve, and Brady learn exactly that, each on their own timeline and in their own way.”

The Inspiration for Abby Fabiaschi’s I LIKED MY LIFE
(in her own words)

I was attacked by a Rottweiler when I was nine. The last stitch on either side of the wound was inside each eyelid. The dog, aptly named Gator, missed both my eyes by an amount so small as to be immeasurable. The ER doctor heralded this a miracle and I decided, right then, that no matter what I looked like the next day I would focus on that piece of good fortune: I could still see.

What I didn’t understand in my then-scarred state was that what I would see was about to change. I became a person worthy of double takes and gasps. I was forced to acknowledge a truth far younger than most—it does matter what you look like, at least to some. I got fifty-seven stitches that first night and eight reconstructive surgeries over the twelve years that followed, but this is not a sob story. Yes, bone from my rib is now on my nose, and skin from behind my ears and on my ass is now on my face, but I wouldn’t take back that night if I could. Because here’s the thing: I don’t know who I would be without that experience. Those scars brought me perspective at a young age. They made me tough. They gave me loads of time to read where I could sop up the crazy mistakes people make without experiencing the consequences. They protected me from vanity and made me a keen observer, ultimately leading me to writing.

A friend recently commented that life has thrown enough complications my way to merit a memoir, but an exceptional memoir requires you to hand over the whole of your truth, along with your version of other peoples’ truth, and I’m too territorial for that. Still, I borrow here and there.

When I was fifteen, I lost one of my closest friends in a tragic car accident. I felt tremendous guilt because I hadn’t invited Elizabeth over that day. So stupid— we liked the same boy so I excluded her. Introducing guilt and grief to my already raging teenage hormones and fierce desire for independence was a hugely defining moment in my life. I LIKED MY LIFE started with a desire to explore mourning at that tender age. I wrote it for me, and then went back to my demanding career in high tech.

Four years later, at fifty-three years of age, my dad died of a heart attack. He was my father, but he was also my boss, mentor, and best friend. I didn’t write for years after his death, not even in a journal. The loss consumed all of me.

Then one day I happened across I LIKED MY LIFE on my computer. The title popped from the screen; it felt enormously important to revisit it. Having then mourned as a teenager and a parent, I was better able to distinguish the nuances of grief experienced by each character.

Tapping into those challenging life events is where the nonfiction ended and the storytelling began. I was inspired by a sentiment from Adrienne Rich’s poetry: If we could learn to learn from pain even as it grasps us. Isn’t that a powerful thought? As I discovered after the dog bite, slivers of beauty exist in life’s most antagonizing moments, if only you know where to look. I set out with three characters—Madeline, Eve, and Brady—as they learn exactly that, each on their own timeline and in their own way. I wrote the book for me, unburdening my loss on unsuspecting characters. That their journey will find its way to living and breathing readers is wild.

PRAISE FOR ABBY’S BOOK

“Wholly compelling, altogether believable and, at times, so heartbreaking it’s hard to believe she isn’t already an established author…I Liked My Life is an impossible-to-put-down and impressive debut.”

Associated Press

“[Fabiaschi is] a natural storyteller.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Readers will be enveloped by the emotional impact of Fabiaschi’s writing. Warm and hopeful, this marvelous debut stands next to novels from Catherine McKenzie and Carolyn Parkhurst in taking the reader on the emotional rides that define marriage and family.”

Booklist, STARRED review*

“Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, this hard-to-put-down, engrossing debut will have readers wondering until the very end. It examines life and death, despair and faith, parenthood and marriage, the choices we make, and, most of all, love.”

Library Journal, STARRED review

 “Abby Fabiaschi’s first novel, I Liked My Life, is an emotional journey of love, loss, healing, and redemption. I rooted for each character and loved watching them be transformed by time and grace. I look forward to reading more of Abby’s work in the years to come.”

—Lisa See, New York Times bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Abby Fabiaschi is a human rights advocate and the Director of the Her Future Coalition, an international nonprofit organization with a unique prosperity model that uplifts victims from sex trafficking and extreme abuse. In 2012 Abby resigned from her executive post in high tech to pursue a career in writing. I Liked My Life is her first novel. She and her family divide their time between West Hartford, Connecticut, and Park City, Utah. Learn more at www.abbyfabiaschi.com.

*Twenty percent of all Abby Fabiaschi’s after tax profit— including foreign and film rights— are donated to charities uplifting women and children around the world. No exceptions. No fine print.*