What inspired you to write Woman Last Seen In Her Thirties?
I was standing in Whole Foods when a college-aged man bumped into me. He was busy talking to the friend he was shopping with and glanced up at me with a look that said he had just looked right through me. Then he continued on his way. Maybe he was simply rude, but it made me think about how women, in particular, often seem invisible to those around them as they get older. (I believe this is changing—but I still see it happen more than I’d like.) In that moment, the premise of Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties was born.
What goes through Maggie Harris’ mind when her husband leaves her for a younger woman?
At first, Maggie simply doesn’t believe it. After all, her husband Adam has been unflaggingly loyal throughout their almost thirty-year marriage—so much so that Maggie thinks of Adam as her “one sure thing.” As his betrayal starts to sink in, Maggie is hurt, confused, and hardly in the mood to start over. But she does anyway—with courage and aplomb—and finds that her new life, however unwished for, is filled with surprising moments joy and gives her hope for a better future. I found it incredibly inspiring to write Maggie’s story.
Newly single at the age of fifty-three, how does Maggie try to reinvent herself?
Maggie’s first reaction is not to reinvent herself, but instead to keep as much as possible the same. She quickly begins to realize that “the way it’s always been” isn’t working out so well for her—and in fact, that was true even before Adam left.
On a whim, Maggie decides to take the trip to Rome she and Adam had planned—by herself. That vacation opens the door to a number of unexpected opportunities: a new city and home, a surprising career change, and even a new relationship. For Maggie, reinvention comes from listening to her heart and finding the courage to say “yes”—even when it scares her or when the outcome may be uncertain.
How does her relationship with her two children change?
Maggie’s children are both grown—her son Jack is a recent college graduate struggling to find his way, and her daughter Zoe is a newly-minted lawyer whose job has become her life. They love their mother and are supportive of her, especially after Adam leaves her. Even so, at beginning of the novel, it’s clear they mostly think of her as a mother, rather than a woman with needs and wants and a complex inner life. As the novel progresses and Maggie becomes more confident and increasingly vocal, her children come to see her for the person she is and develop a newfound respect for her.
As busy moms, what can we learn from reading Maggie’s story?
As I wrote this book, I thought a lot about my relationship with my own children and how often I put my own needs aside to care for them. (The answer: a lot!) It’s normal—and often enjoyable—to devote yourself to your children, but that devotion shouldn’t come at the expense of your well-being or sense of self. Maggie has become so good at caring for her family that they’ve grown to take her for granted; in a way, she’s almost invisible to them. And that comes at a great cost: when she finds herself single and with an empty nest, she isn’t sure who she is anymore. Writing this novel was nothing if not a reminder that as a busy mom, I should care for myself the same way I care for the rest of my family.
Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what can you share with us?
I recently finished a new draft I’m really excited about. It’s the story of a woman who learns her best friend’s marriage was built on lies—which inspires her to use radical honesty to try to save her own relationship.
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