Thursday, 11 February 2016

No Ordinary Life - Review and Interview with Author Suzanne Redfearn

Author: Suzanne Redfearn
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Type: ARC e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
First Published: February 2, 2016
First Line: "Molly and I sit outside the principal's office, my eyes staring at my hands in my lap like a defendant awaiting a verdict."

Book Description from GoodReadsFaye Martin never expected her husband to abandon her and her three children . . . or that she'd have to struggle every day to make ends meet. So when her four-year-old daughter is discovered through a YouTube video and offered a starring role on a television series, it seems like her prayers have been answered. But when the reality of their new life settles in, Faye realizes that fame and fortune don't come without a price. And in a world where everyone is an actor and every move is scrutinized by millions, it's impossible to know who to trust, and Faye finds herself utterly alone in her struggle to save her family. Emotionally riveting and insightful, NO ORDINARY LIFE is an unforgettable novel about the preciousness of childhood and the difficult choices a mother needs to make in order to protect this fragile time in her children's lives. 

My Review:  A couple of years ago I read and loved Suzanne Redfearn's debut novel, Hush Little Baby so I was quite eager to get the chance to read and review her latest novel.

In her new novel, No Ordinary Life, Redfearn tells the story of Faye, the single mother of three children, whose four year old, Molly is suddenly put in the spotlight after a video of her performing goes viral.  The craziness of Hollywood offers ensue and Faye quickly finds out that things aren't as golden as they seem in Hollywood.  The family learns about Hollywood's allure and glamour as well as its pitfalls, stresses and even danger.  It's also an interesting and in-depth look at the life of a stage mother and the price that fame takes on an entire family.

At the heart of this book is family which include Faye's three kids - Emily, Tom and Molly who were well-developed characters.  From the moody preteen to the quiet middle child to the adorable Shirley Temple-esque four year old, they each had distinctive personalities and issues which made parenting them a struggle for their single mother.

Faye definitely struggled to deal with all that life had thrown at her.  Her marriage and life were in shambles and her emotions and fears were palpable.  I liked that she was a flawed mother and I think that initially many of her insecurities and struggles were realistic for the situations she found herself in. You don't doubt her love for her kids but the way she dealt with some issues made it hard to always stand behind some of her choices. 

It's obvious that Faye desperately wants to make things work for her family but sometimes it seems like she's her own worst enemy.  It soon felt like she was out for her own interests while, at the same time, admonishing her estranged husband, Sean for doing the same thing. Some of the interactions between Faye and Sean as well as Faye and twelve year old Emily were an accurate portrayal of a family in a lot of pain but a few of these interactions were so emotionally charged that, as a mother myself, I found them hard to read.  

But it was Faye's poor decision making that I found hard to swallow - especially the decision which would have put Molly in harm's way and Faye's decision that put the livelihood and respect of innocent people in jeopardy.  That last decision felt sudden and disjointed with the rest of the book and didn't sit well with me.

While No Ordinary Life wasn't as big of a page turner for me as Hush Little Baby, it was a different kind of read and still very enjoyable.  Redfearn has done a lot of research on the subject of child stars and gives her readers a glimpse into the flashy world of Hollywood as well as its underbelly of paparazzi, stalkers, sex, drugs, the exploitation of children which plague many young child stars.  This was a quick read and I think that many of the issues addressed would make some great book club discussions.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to author Suzanne Redfearn and Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I'd also like to thank Suzanne for taking the time to answer the my questions in the following interview.

My Interview with Author Suzanne Redfearn

   How did you research your behind the scenes look at Hollywood? -- I read every autobiography written by former child stars that I could get my hands on, and I also did research on television production and the psychological effects of fame. My cousin had worked as a production assistant and her husband is a grip (lighting and rigging technician), so they were also helpful in checking the technical details.

    How did you want readers to view Faye? -- I wanted them to be sympathetic to her. She doesn’t set out to exploit her kids. She believes she is making a better life for them. She is a young, single mom, who is financially destitute and doing the best she can in tough circumstances. I hope the readers relate to her and understand her plight. She makes some mistakes, but her heart is in the right place.
   Where do you get your inspiration for your plot and characters?  Are you initially inspired by the plot or do the characters come to you first? -- The inspiration for No Ordinary Life came when I was in line at the grocery store. I knew my editor wanted me to write another story about a mother protecting her children, so I was keeping my eye out for ideas, and there in front of me was a tabloid with the headline, “Zac Efron Enters Rehab Again.” My daughter was a High School Musical fan when she was little, so I felt like I had watched Zac Efron grow up, and to know he was suffering and that his suffering was being made public made me feel horrible for him and his parents. The idea Child Star popped in my head. At that point I wasn’t certain what the story was going to be, but I liked the idea of exploring what goes on behind the glitz and glamour that causes so many young actors to suffer such tragic setbacks and downfalls. That’s how all my ideas sort of happen. I’m not really focusing too hard on it, and wham bam something hits me. Not all the ideas are great, but when a good one strikes, it feels like a gift, a zap from the universe.

    The traumatic experience that Emily experienced was handled differently than I would have expected.  Why did you deal with it in the way you did? -- Truthfully, the novel was too long and needed to be edited down, so some of the explanation for what Emily went through and how it was dealt with was taken out. While traumatic and awful, I didn’t want to veer too off course from the story about Faye and the choices she needed to make. What happened to Emily was a catalyst for what happened after, the final straw for Faye and a pivotal turning point for Sean.

    What authors inspire you?  What are a few of your favourite ‘I wish everyone would read this book’ books? -- Lately I’ve become a fan of authors of contemporary stories about substantial topics told with humor—JoJo Moyes, Lianne Moriarty, Gillian Flynn. I think everyone should read The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

    What was the hardest scene for you to write about in No Ordinary Life? -- Sex scenes are always the most difficult, but that’s with every book. In No Ordinary Life, I don’t know if it was the hardest scene, but the one that affected me most was the airport scene. I was once in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond when my daughter had a meltdown because I wouldn’t buy her a toy she desperately wanted. For twenty minutes I stood there while she screamed and had a tantrum with people walking by with either sympathetic expressions or judgmental frowns. It was the worst feeling, and to imagine something like that happening while dozens of photographers documented it, knowing it was going to be plastered in every tabloid and shown on every celebrity gossip show in the world made my heart split in two with sympathy for Faye. It was the pinnacle moment in the story that illustrated how out of control Faye’s life had become.

     As a former architect and current owner of a restaurant, what prompted you to change things up and become an author? -- It was a bucket list endeavor. I sat down one day with an idea and thought, Why not? Everyone always says they’re going to write a novel. I’m going to give it a try. It was terrible. I had no idea where commas went, every sentence started with “she” and I think I used the word “amazing” three thousand times. But miraculously, after seven months, a story was there with characters and suspense and plot. And I was hooked. I had finally figured out what it was that I wanted to do when I grew up.

   About the Author

Suzanne Redfearn is the author of Hush Little Baby, which was chosen as a Target Recommends selection and Target’s Emerging Authors program. She graduated summa cum laude from California Polytechnic University and, prior to becoming an author, was an architect. She is an avid surfer, golfer, skier, and Angels fan. She lives with her husband and children in Southern California. No Ordinary Life is her second novel.

     My sincere thanks to Suzanne Redfearn for taking the time to answer my questions.

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