The resort was based on the Gamble familys own summer cottage at Harbor Point north of Harbor Springs. She is among the fifth generation of her family to have summered locally as a privileged member of one of Americas great industrial clans.
Gamble writes from a perspective most of us will never know. For one thing, she is a descendant of Proctor & Gable co-founder James Gamble. And, as one reviewer notes, in her world, cottage is a code word for 10 bedrooms and a servants wing -- owned by big-money types who could afford to take summers off.
Now, the San Francisco author has written a follow-up novel, Good Family, set in the same quasi-fictional locales of Sand Isle and Becks Point on Lake Michigan. Its the tale of Maddie Addison, who is, coincidentally, a scion of a great American industrial clan.
Maddie survived an awkward but sheltered adolescence only to be plagued in adulthood by alcoholism, a failed marriage, and an unendurable loss of her baby in a crib death that sent her fleeing the burden of rigid family expectations, notes a synopsis from her publisher, HarperCollins. Maddie returns 11 years later near the age of 40 to come to grips with her family and a widowed mother who has suffered a stroke and is near death.
Following is an interview with the author, provided by her publisher. Terry Gamble will be signing copies of her new book on Aug. 9 at McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey and Aug. 19 at Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord.
NE: This is your second novel set in Northern Michigan, specifically in an exclusive summer resort. Why do you choose this setting?
Gamble: This is a setting with which I am intimately familiar. Like the Addisons in Good Family and the Marches in Water Dancers, my family has spent summers in Northern Michigan since that part of the state first became accessible by train. There is a direct correlation to the emergence of the summerhouse in America and the proliferation of trains in the late 19th century. Consequently, in the summer, more affluent people from other parts of the country inundated communities that were for the majority of the year populated by locals. When occupied by multiple generations, these summerhouses become the repositories of a familys significance and identity. Maddies family home, The Aerie, is practically a character in the book at times even anthropomorphized.
NE: You allude to ghosts in your book. What is the function of ghosts in Good Family?
Gamble: The ghosts are more metaphorical than literal, although some family members seem to have encountered actual ghosts in one form or another. The ghosts, however, are more the shared family experiences, the memories, the unprocessed grief. The Aerie is a ghost-charged house in particular because of the unexpressed emotions projected onto its rooms, its contents, its history. As Maddie says at the end, We are all part ghost.
In a house in which many family (members) have lived, there are layers upon layers, each being incorporated into the current present, reinterpreted and redefined. There is a lingering sense of what went before, both literally in the notes of a diary or the markings on a wall, or figuratively in the smells and sounds and memories. During my research on Scarlet Fever, which killed Maddies great-aunt, I discovered that the theory of the time was that the spores of the disease could live on and infect someone years later. I thought that was an amazing image for the pathologies of previous generations carrying over into the next.
NE: Given that the novel is written in the first person, people will inevitably ask how much of this is autobiography.
Gamble: All authors bring some personal experience to their work. I can identify with Maddie particularly because I came of age at the same time and with the same socio-economic background. Women from that background, to some extent, were confused by the choices society was offering starting in the 60s.
Upper class women are often bred to be hothouse flowers, and woe to those whose intellect, talent, or ambition propel them further. It isnt surprising that alcohol and sleep are so seductive to those who are attempting to sedate their true urgings.
That being said, Maddies life and mine are clearly different. For one thing, I have mercifully never lost a child, but can only relate to it as an unimaginable loss. Several people close to me have lost children, and have generously shared with me their experiences about their long journey with grief and how the presence of a child remains long after that child is gone.
Like Maddie, I have lost my parents. I was particularly fortunate to be able to communicate my love and forgiveness before they died, and to let them go.
NE: So do you believe in reincarnation or an afterlife?
Gamble: Its the big question, isnt it? This is the incarnation that counts, and our job is to live it with all the exuberance and joy and curiosity and experience as we can muster. The character, Adele, talks about children being closer to the Divine, and maybe they are. But the Divine, in my opinion, isnt out lurking somewhere, available only to those who havent been born or to those whove died. Its right here, now, for the taking.