Trish Ingram works hard to maintain the perfect suburban household—or, at least, the appearance of one. By managing her outer world with lavish attention and rigid control, she’s able to ignore and conceal the darkness of her inner world, which is plagued by traumatic childhood memories of loss. Her terminally ill sister-in-law, Jamie, sees through the façade and reaches out in love to Trish, inspiring her to seek a more meaningful life and a more authentic self. But the childhood scars run deep, and despite Trish’s best efforts, she’s unable to be the wife and mother her family needs.
Devastated by the departure of her husband and daughter, Trish faces the challenge and opportunity of a lifetime. She desires to move forward in faith, but this desire alone cannot mend her family's shattered trust. The hollow realm of denial and fear has been her safe haven. To confront pain and transcend the shadows of her past will require a level of courage she’s not sure she possesses. This gripping story of familial love and conflict tenderly reminds us that forgiveness—of self, and others—is both a difficult choice and a precious gift. Why I wrote the book:
“My Gift to You” is about forgiving ourselves, despite what we perceive as our shortcomings. When we judge ourselves as less than acceptable for any reason, small mistakes can cripple us with discouragement. It becomes easy to lose sight of our potential, as well as precious opportunities for growth.
I was an only child with ample time to ponder the intricacies of human behavior. At a young age, I became fascinated by the fact that while several people in my life were happy, upbeat, and in possession of inner peace in most if not all circumstances, some seemed inherently unhappy no matter what happened—good or bad. Money and possessions didn’t seem to have a bearing, and I wondered what did.
Though I’d been baptized when I was eight, my family didn’t attend church. If I wanted to go, I had to attend on my own. It took me a while to grasp gospel concepts, and I found that most of the time I was among those who were unhappy. About twenty years ago I decided to stop asking Why me? and instead start asking What if?
One by one, I replaced negative emotions with those of a positive nature. Instead of wondering why I couldn't make everyone around me happy—and becoming despondent because nothing I did seemed to change them or their opinions—I started asking things like, "What if happiness really is a choice? What if it can be my choice, no matter what anyone else thinks or feels?"
Instead of commiserating over why my extended family couldn't accept me for who I was and what I believed in, I asked myself, "What if I could choose my own thoughts and emotions based on what I know in my heart is right and true?" In short, "What if I accept myself for who I am?"
And, "What if I forgive—knowing that forgiveness doesn't mean acceptance?" When I began writing “My Gift to You,” I decided I wanted my main character, Trish, to discover something important about herself: I wanted her to discover her own inner strengths and worth—much like I had when I began to unravel my own life.
Some of the things I hope the book will lead the reader to consider:
What does charity mean? Why is it important we extend it to ourselves?
What can happen when we base our worth on what the world values? On what should we base our worth?
Why are women so hard on themselves? What defines true success?
What can result when we judge ourselves to be less than others? Why is important we have a clear sense of self and purpose?
Are cruelty and shallowness signs of strength, or weakness? Why can cruelty be the result of fear?
Lori Nawyn's award-winning writing has appeared in regional and national publications including Outside Bozeman, Segullah, Deseret News, CraziBeautiful Women, and Latter-Day Woman. She is also a columnist for her local paper and a former member of Utah Press Women. One of her short stories was published in the anthology Stolen Christmas. Her first novel, My Gift to You, was released in October 2010.
Lori is currently writing her next novel, Day, about a mother’s relationship with her son. She works as a freelance artist and is the illustrator of the award-winning children's picture book What Are You Thinking? which was released in July 2010 by ThoughtsAlive Publishing. She and her fireman husband live in northern Utah where they enjoy spending time with their four children and two granddaughters, plus an assortment of dogs, rabbits, and chickens.
Weaving together powerful gospel truths and psychologically driven fiction, GG Vandagriff’s, Pieces of Paris, takes readers on a emotional ride that winds through the darkest recesses of painful memories, plunges into unexpected realities, then climbs to breathtaking vistas of understanding, forgiveness and love. In Pieces of Paris we see the unraveling of Annalisse, a woman who seems to have everything until dark memories she’s kept deeply buried for years claw their way to the surface, threatening to destroy everything she holds dear. The story opens with Annalisse, a woman in her twenties, living a quiet, normal life on a farm in the Ozarks. She is expecting her second child and is mom to three and a half year old son, Jordan. But after four and a half years of bliss she suddenly finds herself being haunted by the past. Her predictable but seemingly happy life with husband Dennis, an attorney, begins to crumble. The first paragraph of the book reads: It was the simple things that undid her, Annalisse had discovered. Something as ordinary as the scent of lilacs when the air was heavy, a brief measure of Tchaikovsky, or a dream. A dream like the one she’d awakened from last night – so real she could smell the Paris Metro in it. Any of these things could revive in a moment the memories she’d spent the last six years burying. They crept under the leaden shield around her heart and found the small, secret place where she still had feeling. So begins Annalisse’s journey of facing a past she’d blocked from her reality until piece by piece, the fragments began to fit together, forcing her to face the pain she’d thought she’d covered . . . until now. Leaving another life behind, Annaliese finds refuge and safety in the arms of her beloved, idealistic, husband, Dennis. He is her anchor, her strength, and she puts her past behind her to be with him, and that includes moving to his idea of the Garden of Eden . . . the Ozarks. When he meets Annalisse, Dennis knows she is someone unique and special. Dealing with pain from his own past and a broken heart, he focuses on this beautiful woman, vastly different from his past relationship, Annalisse immediately appears to be the perfect person to heal his disillusionment and he knows they are meant to be together. When the flashbacks begin, Annalisse keeps them to herself—certain that telling Dennis will destroy their relationship. At the same time Dennis is battling with a controversial legal case, fighting against an industrial firm that is trying to cover up a toxic waste dump, a case that has put his family in danger. As each challenge grows and pushes them apart, Dennis and Annalisse both begin to wonder if their marriage is what they really wanted or expected and if the person they are with now is anything like the person they thought they married. Vandagriff has a true gift of words and paints glorious scenes and intense emotion in this well-paced, gripping drama. This powerful story of second chances, the gift of forgiveness, and the depth of truth will resonate with readers of all ages and stations in life.
And in the final pages we find the true meaning of the story.
“The day I met you, all I could see anywhere I looked was pain and no possibility of making a difference. You were the only bright thing, and you came just in time.”
“I couldn’t have looked very bright. Oh, Dennis.” She buried her head in his shoulder and held on to him. “You were my only bright thing, too. How have we gotten this far with all these ridiculous expectations of each other?”
Remembering the Twenty-third Psalm he was silent, stroking her hair.
“There’s only one Savior,” Dennis told her.
One of the best ways to truly understand this story is to understand the author, GG Vandagriff. I was able to interview her and ask her about her experiences that lead up to writing this book.
M. Bell: Where did you get the idea for the book?
GG Vandagriff: It was a combination of 3 very disparate things: 1.) A funny incident when we went canoeing in the Ozarks and David was sitting in the back and I was in the front. He kept yelling “paddle on the right” “paddle on the left”. I looked back and he wasn’t paddling at all! I started laughing at him, because he was so earnest and worried we were going to capsize. We did! We swam in that muddy, cow dung infested creek and he lost his wallet. I have rarely laughed so hard, but even at this distance, he still doesn’t think it was funny. In my writer’s mind, I thought of what a wonderful parody this was of our marriage. Paddle on the Right was the name of the story for years, until I found out what the book was really about, and had to remove the scene. 2.) The Tchaikovsky violin concerto, which I am listening to as I write this. To me, it is the most sublime piece of music written, and is so evocative of every human motion. I was so in love with it, that it veritably created Jules and his whole life and character as he appears in the book. Everything about Jules is in that concerto, except that the concerto ends triumphantly. I hope some day to meet Tchaikovsky (and Tolstoy). 3.) An incident in my doctor’s office that started me thinking: he was the same age and had been a Vietnam War protestor. So had David. I had lost my fiancé in the war. How had it affected our later lives? How did the three of us end up in the Ozarks? Did our past anger and helplessness at the government’s actions have anything to do with our “searching for Eden”? In my doctor’s case, he had graduated at the top of his class and chose to work in a small rural town where he could really help people. Ditto for David, only he was a lawyer. I just wanted to raise my children to be safe. When you read the book, you will definitely recognize all of us: Dr. Gregory, Dennis, and Annalisse. Because the Vietnam War is so far in the past, that eventually went out of the book, as it aged.
M. Bell: What was the research process for this story like? How long did you spend gathering information?
GG Vandagriff: The research was all internal. I had to go through PTSD and then discover what was wrong with me and how to put it behind me. I was actually having PTSD over my fiancé that was killed in the war. It was very painful. But, as I said the war is not in the book. The PTSD is, however, and I have read a lot about it. The places in the book: I lived in a town that is the model for Blue Creek for sixteen years, I studied near Vienna for six months, and I have visited Paris on many occasions, starting when I was sixteen.
M. Bell: Given that this book is so personal, what was the writing process like for you?
GG Vandagriff: This book taught me everything I know about writing classic fiction. I worked closely with a free-lance editor who operated like a gem cutter. She saw the brilliance in the story, and cut away all the dross, inspiring me to write more cleanly. She even recognized things that I hadn’t realized about the story and its development and so it switched into an entirely different mode. It went from being semi-humorous (I always hide my true feelings in humor) into a book about the “hard questions” of life and marriage, and the triumph of truth over the evil that would separate husbands and wives.
M. Bell: What is the theme of the story and why did you write about it?
GG Vandagriff: The theme of the story is the difference between narcissistic love (the feeling we have when we think, “ah this person was created just for ME) and real love, when you would sacrifice almost anything in Christlike love for your spouse. That is a big jump, and takes a complex story crafted with much difficulty to tell. It also takes a lifetime of experience.
M. Bell: What do you want readers to get from this story?
GG Vandagriff: I am hoping that they will give more thought to their own marriages, deconstructing them to the basics, and then, with the help of the Savior, reconstructing them into Celestial marriages.
You can also visit GG at her web-site HERE or blog HERE.
GG is having a contest in conjunction with the release of her book. She will be giving away a beautiful silver Eiffel Tower charm to a reader who leaves a comment on this post!
WINNER ANNOUNCED! The winner of my recent contest - vote for your favorite Michele Ashman Bell book, or tell which book you'd like her to write a sequel to, is . . . Nichole Sieiler. Congratulations! Contact me at micheleabell at gmail dot com and I will send you the grand prize!
Thanks so much to all who've left posts on my blog and entered these two contests. It's fun to see familiar names and see new people join me on my blog.
I'm excited to announce that the winner of Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen's book, TRAPPED, is . . . Joidee Gappmayer. She will receive an autographed copy of the book!
Next week I will announce the winner of the Name Your Favorite M.A.B. book, or the Tell Which Book You'd Like Me to Write a Sequel To contest. I'm loving all the comments, LOVING them! You are all so awesome and I appreciate your feedback and support.
Also, if you have a favorite LDS author you'd like me to interview, let me know and I'll see if they will agree to an interview. I enjoy meeting authors and getting to know them too!
I just received word of the title of my new book, third in the Butterfly Box series. The book will be called . . . PERFECT FIT. This book will focus on Andrea and follows her as she participates in a reality television show similar to "The Bachelor." It will also further the stories of the other Butterfly Box girls; Chloe, Emma, Lauryn and Jocelyn. And finally, it will solve the mystery surrounding Ava's death.
Projected release date is APRIL 2011. Stay tuned for details and sneak peaks.
OTHER NEWS Summer in Paris available now on eBook Get your copy now!
To celebrate the naming and upcoming release of my book I am holding a contest. I want to find out from you, the readers, which book you would most like to see me write a sequel to OR which of my books is your favorite and why. The winner will receive an autographed copy of Hometown Girl, book two in the Butterfly Box series, as well as a large collection of other great books by favorite LDS authors.
1 Entry - Visit my new web-siteand enter to receive my newsletter and emails 1 Entry - Leave a comment telling me which of my books is your favorite and why 1 Entry- Leave a comment telling me which book you would like me to write a sequel to 1 Entry - follow my blog
My greatest claim to fame is my family. I am married to my prince charming and have four awesome children. This year I experienced the joy of becoming a grandmother to my sweet baby girl Halle. I love to travel and I love to write books.