Mothers and Other Strangers
(Prospect Park Books, May 2017)
Authorlink Audio Interview with Gina Sorell
Audio Length: 15 minutes
“My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen, and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man’s child, she accepted.”
So begins Gina Sorell’s remarkable debut novel MOTHERS AND OTHER STRANGERS (Prospect Park Books; On-sale May 2, 2017), a riveting story of a woman’s quest to understand her recently deceased mother, a glamorous, cruel narcissist who left her only child an inheritance of debts and mysteries.
In an Authorlink AUDIO interview with Gina, we learn about how the author developed the idea, how long it took her to write the work, and how it feels to have her book published after years of honing her craft and looking for a publisher. She also praises her mentors, the late playwright Carol Bolt and New York Times bestselling author Caroline Leavitt for helping her turn out a highly-praised first novel.
In the book, when Elsie Robins learns of the death of her estranged mother, Rachel, she’s flooded with a mix of emotions. She is surprised as she didn’t know her mother was sick, let alone dying. She is relieved for the end of a troubled relationship with a difficult person. She feels sadness for never getting the chance at reconciliation or at the very least, the truth about who Rachel was. As Elsie travels from her home in Los Angeles to her former hometown of Toronto, she’s haunted by a painful past with a complicated woman and hopes that in death, her mother can help her to fill the missing pieces that made her feel uprooted her whole life. Upon arrival, she discovers that her mother wasn’t the woman she claimed to be. And when her mother’s apartment is ransacked, Elsie realizes that she is not the only one looking for answers.
While coping with threats she suspects are coming from the secretive and controlling spiritual group her mother belonged to, Elsie sets out to understand who her mother was and in turn, she’s forced to face her own troubled identity. Her journey takes her first to Paris and eventually, to the South African homestead she never knew existed, uncovering how it all began, and what it was that her mother was running from.
“I called this book MOTHERS AND OTHER STRANGERS because Rachel really is a stranger to her daughter Elsie,” explains Sorell. “And because at some point like all of our mothers, she was a woman living in a world that didn’t include us, with people we never met and hopes and dreams that we never knew. She was someone, other than our mother.”
A gripping and deeply affecting portrait of family and identity, of the lies we tell when the truth is too much, and of how far we will go for a sense of belonging, MOTHERS AND OTHER STRANGERS is an extraordinary debut not to be missed.
About Gina Sorell
Gina Sorell was born in South Africa and raised in Toronto. A former actor, Gina was part of the first-ever performing arts school in Canada, Claude Watson School for the Performing Arts, and among the first students admitted to the school in its inaugural year. She attended CWSA and Earl Haig as a drama major and dance minor, and would go on to attend The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan. Throughout her school years Gina wrote and often created and produced her own work.
Gina’s first job as an actor was at an off-off Broadway theater company called Theater on Three; creating work with inner city kids who had stories to tell. She then returned to Toronto where she wrote and performed in a successful sketch troupe called The Stupid Goodlookings, and later at Second City Mainstage. One of the first plays she performed in was the first ever adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Good Bones, and she had the pleasure of studying playwriting with the late Carol Bolt. After moving to Los Angeles with her actor husband Jeff Clarke, Gina returned to her first love writing, and honed her craft at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, graduating with distinction. It was at UCLA that she met her mentor, the New York Times bestselling author Caroline Leavitt, who contacted Gina after reading the first sentence of her novel Mothers and Other Strangers, to say that she had a book, and encouraged her to pursue it. After a decade in Los Angeles, Gina returned to Toronto to be with her family and raise her own, in her old beloved neighborhood of Riverdale, which has always felt like home. Learn more at http://www.ginasorell.com/.
Praise for MOTHERS AND OTHER STRANGERS
“Mesmerizing and quietly revealing, Sorell’s memorable novel expertly weaves Elsie’s search for answers about her origins with her own journey of healing.” —Publishers Weekly
“A fascinating look at a unique and fractured parent-child relationship. An engaging and tense exploration of the scars our childhoods can leave behind.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A “haunting exploration [that] gets at the raw truth of survivorship, showing that even when the past is buried, it never truly dies.”—Foreword Reviews
“Whom do we really belong to and why? This dark, gorgeous jewel of a novel probes the secrets we keep and the complex ties of family, love, and loss. Shattering and brilliant, this marks the debut of an astonishing talent.”
—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times–bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World
“MOTHERS AND OTHER STRANGERS is a memorable first novel, a delightfully twisty gothic with the strange and eerie urgency of a fable or a dream.”
—Dan Chaon, National Book Award nominee and author of Ill Will
“A young woman’s investigation of her mother’s mysterious past uncovers disturbing revelations about love, family and the fragile bonds that both connect us and tear us apart. An absorbing, sensitive novel that confirms the troubling reality that it’s often the people closest to us who do the most harm.”
—Elizabeth Brundage, author of All Things Cease to Appear
“This compelling debut reveals the astronomical cost of harboring family secrets. Somehow Gina Sorell has managed to craft both a meditation on the messiness of mother-daughter bonds and a mystery that will keep you turning pages until the wee hours of the morning.”
—Michelle Brafman, author of Bertrand Court and Washing the Dead
“From the first shocking sentence of Gina Sorell’s Mothers and Other Strangers I was hooked on the twisting ride of a woman who receives an inheritance of secrets, debt, and the mess left behind. With stunning prose and the danger of a thriller, Sorell reaches deep into a broken heart and finds what’s still beating. I am a fan!”
—Susan Henderson, author of Up from the Blue
“A stunning debut, Mothers and Other Strangers, grips from page one, a perfect weave of suspense and of insight about how people love and hurt one another, and sometimes heal, and sometimes cannot. I highly recommend this novel, and look forward – impatiently – to Gina Sorell’s future work!”
—Robin Black, author of Life Drawing
“Gina Sorell has written a complex mystery of the human heart in her poignant debut novel, Mothers and Other Strangers, exploring how the emotional riddle of our parents shapes our lives well into adulthood. To paraphrase Philip Larkin, they screw you up, your mom and dad. Sometimes they intend to hurt you as deeply as they’ve been hurt. The quest in this wise novel is to realize that the path to healing a childhood wound passes through understanding the strangeness of one’s parents, and accepting it, or not. This book is a must read for anyone who has struggled to understand their own parents.”
—Robert Eversz, author of Shooting Elvis
MOTHERS AND OTHER STRANGERS by Gina Sorell
Prospect Park Books; on-sale May 2, 2017; Trade Paperback Original; $16.00
This post was written by Editorial Staff