We first introduced readers to Elizabeth LaBan when we fell in love with her novel, The Restaurant Critic's Wife. Her latest release, Not Perfect, is one of our February must-read picks now available wherever books are sold.
What inspired you to write Not Perfect?
At first, I liked the idea of exploring what it would be like for people who were stretched so thin financially that they couldn’t afford the life they had built, and eventually had to steal to maintain it. I imagined they sent their kids to a school they had fallen in love with, one they couldn’t leave but also couldn’t pay for, and that ended up being the driving force. But once I really sat down to write it, I realized that wasn’t enough. On top of that, it would be hard to sympathize with people who just wanted more for the sake of wanting more. So then I thought, what if you think you have everything one day, and then the next day it’s gone? That’s where it started, and then it grew from there.
What goes through Tabitha Brewster’s mind when her husband leaves behind an ominous goodbye note?
Disbelief and terror – because not only did she think she had more control over the situation, but he brings up the things she most fears in life as true possibilities.
How does Tabitha learn to cope with her new existence?
Really, the entire book is her learning curve. As she moves through the world looking for a job, meeting people she would never have met before, and figuring out how to get food and other necessities for her family, she discovers new things all the time. She is lucky to have a roof over her head, and not have to worry about that, but so much comes up that she took for granted before. What she learns, though, is that nothing really was as it seemed, and even though she thought she had a solid foundation underneath her before everything changed, she comes to see that was far from true.
How does her relationship with her two children change?
It changes in many ways over the course of the book. She has to give Levi more freedom than she ever gave him before. At the same time, Fern sometimes takes on the role of caretaker even though she is the youngest. Through it all, they know something is going on, and they know Tabitha isn’t telling them what it is, so there is some confusion and loss of respect that comes into play. But Tabitha never stops worrying about them, and even though things are so different from what they are used to, they never stop being her priority.
As busy moms, what can we learn from reading Tabitha’s story?
I think the biggest takeaway is that Tabitha will do anything to feed her children, even steal. But at the same time, as she has to look for a job and figure out her new life, there are times some of the details which she used to micromanage fall away. There is just no way she can do everything while she is smack in the middle of the crisis. Through it all, I believe she really does do her best. I guess the best lesson is that nobody is perfect, and trying to be is just impossible and way too much pressure.
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Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what can you share with us?
Yes! I have a full draft of a new novel I wrote with my writing partner Melissa DePino (we wrote Pretty Little World together), and I am at the beginning of writing my next solo novel. The full draft we have is about a woman who finds herself in a relationship with a narcissist, how that plays with her self-esteem, her mind, and her emotions, and how in trying to get away from him she finds help from a completely unexpected ally. The novel I am just beginning is about the surprises we sometimes come upon in marriage, and how far people will and can go to bend the traditional rules in an effort to stay together.
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