Here Among Us by Maggie Harryman
Something Like Faith
by Maggie Harryman
Years ago I was talking to my sister and somehow the subject of faith came up. I don’t remember exactly what she said but it was something like, “you don’t have faith because you stopped going to church.” We were raised in a strict Catholic household and her comment spoke to the fact that she had maintained her faith by continuing to attend church, which she does to this day. Her faith helped her through some very tough times (the death of a child for one) and she seemed genuinely perplexed and even saddened by the fact that, as far as she was concerned, I had tossed my belief out the window as an adult. I was floored by the comment but having made a conscious decision to leave the church years before, couldn’t think why.
Now I know.
I never once lost my faith. It just morphed into something that had less to do with organized religion and more to do with a larger context of how I lived my life.
I’ve always been a writer, was a writer long before I published Here Among Us and the act of sitting down to write everyday (something I was doing on that day when my sister and I had that conversation) required a level of faith I was ill equipped to describe, much less defend. But it was there as real and true as anything that my sister experienced.
I suppose I would answer today that it took enormous faith to continue pursuing my dream of publishing a novel while I had small children and a husband who counted on me to help with his business. Later, it took faith to put down those first sentences—after two other failed attempts to finish a novel—and to refine them into lyrical prose that enticed and hopefully at times, even delighted. It took faith to throw out whole sections because they weren’t quite good enough and faith to wait for some better idea or circumstance or plot twist to rise up from the ether of my mind. The simple act of sitting down to write every day and creating believable characters – who really have become at some point more like your children or best friends—requires great faith. It takes faith to bring them into your heart and faith to let them go.
The nice thing about getting older is that life wears you down and in spite of yourself experiences—either good or bad—soften the hard edges. You develop a patina, a sort of “pride cometh before a fall” knowing glow that not only shuts your mouth but simultaneously makes you profoundly grateful. I seriously doubt that my sister would ever accuse me of not having faith today. In fact, my guess is that she’d freely admit that her own faith has been tested all too often to the limits of its endurance, that she’d even thrown it away at times, only to retrieve it with a new, deeper understanding of her own nature.
She’d happily agree that there are all kinds of faith. And since I love my sister with all my heart I will freely admit that the faith required to kneel week in and week out in a pew, trudging out in all sorts of weather even when you don’t feel like it, when you’d rather—just this once—stay sleeping is of a powerful sort, especially if like her, you live a life that is word and deed. But my sister would also agree with me that there’s the faith that encourages you to step out onto a stage, to bear a child, to admit that joy still exists even in the midst of great tragedy, to move to a new city where you know no one, to take a job that stretches you beyond your current limits, to believe that you’re not too old or too young to make your mark, to say yes to love, or to life for that matter.
There is a simple yet profound faith that comes from creating something out of nothing; from staring at the blank page and knowing that soon there will be life there and a story worth telling.
About In Here Among Us
When unemployed San Francisco attorney, Flynn O’Shea, and her teenage daughter, Didi, are summoned to New Jersey for the Thanksgiving holiday by Flynn’s socialite sister, Maeve, she expects a fight.
After all, she has been battling Maeve most of her life. Disagreeing about the extent of their Irish mother’s creeping dementia and the fate of the family’s thriving restaurant business, named for their beloved, long dead father, Paddy, is surely a recipe for a world-class brawl.
What Flynn doesn’t expect is the fragile truce the sisters forge to save O’Shea’s from the clutches of Maeve’s scheming husband, Jeffrey. Flynn and Maeve are reluctantly aided by their forty-four-year-old brother, Osheen, a handsome Peter Pan still cruising the Jersey shore, getting high and dodging responsibility.
And while Didi tries to convince her mother that “everything is as it should be,” just when Flynn is sure she’s gained the upper hand on Jeffrey, her own mother’s shocking confession sends her into a wine-soaked tailspin and forces her to deal once and for all with the ghosts of her past. Devastated, Flynn must choose to save O’Shea’s or risk losing forever all she has left of her father.
In Here Among Us, the O’Sheas find themselves dealing with the very timely issue of Alzheimer’s, a disease that strips the victim’s identity and wreaks havoc on the family left to pick up the pieces. But Flynn, Osheen and Maeve’s troubles began long before their mother started to “slip.” For the O’Sheas, much of their shared angst is rooted in the single most devastating event of their lives–the death of their father when they were young children. The novel explores not only how deep wounds can seem impossible to heal, but how the O’Sheas’ refusal to let go of the stories they desperately cling to about who they are, threatens to hasten their demise.
Buzz about Here Among Us:
“Here Among Us, by Maggie Harryman, is a book I couldn’t put down. Flynn and her college-ready daughter, Didi, fly east for a Thanksgiving family reunion, a holiday during which the family comes together, falls apart, and ultimately comes together again–the same but forever changed. The O’Shea children grew up helping their late father and still very much alive mother run an Irish pub and restaurant in New Jersey, and the connections forged in that pub are still the important connections in their lives. Flynn, whose story this is, has fled this scene for San Francisco but finds herself drawn back into all the old currents of love and strife she thought she’d left behind. Here she reconnects with Michael, whom she didn’t choose first time around, but with whom she finds herself getting a second chance, a chance she’s not sure she’s ready for.
These are the Irish and they love to talk and the talk is always smart and more often than not, piercingly funny. Harryman has a pitch-perfect ear and an eye for the telling detail.”- Robin Beeman is the author of three works of fiction: A Parallel Life and Other Stories, A Minus Tide, and The Lost Art of Desire.
Genre – Literary Fiction
Rating – R (Strong language, adult themes)
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