Author Kristina Riggle’s new mainstream novel, Things We Didn’t Say, is an RT Top Pick! The story follows Casey as she makes some big decisions in her life — mainly breaking up with her fiancé. But then the unthinkable happens — one of her ex-fiancés children goes missing and soon the entire extended family is involved in the search. Casey must re-evaluate her feelings about her relationship. Today we asked the author to share what inspired her to craft such a tangled family dynamic for her novel.
Is there any more intense crucible of personalities than a family?
See, we choose our friends. If our priorities change, if we grow apart or frankly get sick of each other, we can break up, or drift away. Our friends are a shifting pool of old and new connections, changing as we grow and circumstances change.
But we cannot escape those family ties.
Even those who move away, and cut off contact, are still bound by blood and history. It’s a rare person indeed who is never confronted with her own heritage and descendants.
Families are intricate. Each person has a personality, but each relationship has a personality of its own as well. Each marriage, each sibling relationship, the collective sibling relationship, in-law connections, they all have their own dynamics which are further altered by the presence of the others.
As a person, I sometimes find this complexity exhausting. As a writer, I find it delicious.
It’s not only delicious, but it’s as important and vital a literary subject as any other.
Our greatest pain is caused by the ones we love, either through their actions, or witnessing their suffering. The stakes never feel so high as within a family. Are you doing the right thing in raising the children? Are you holding together your marriage well enough? Are you taking care of your aging parents with enough love and diligence?
These are weighty, universal matters and worthy of literary attention.
There’s also a comfort in seeing your own life reflected in fiction, because you know that if someone wrote it, someone must have experienced it. It’s a sweet relief that’s cheaper than therapy. (Unless you’re buying some really, really expensive books).
Besides all of that, though, the truth is I write about families because I want to. I’m writing for a reader just like me, a reader who likes complicated dynamics with a large cast of colorful characters. These characters may be at times exasperating and foolish, but they are oh, so human.
And isn’t that comforting, in the end, that messy humanity? To read about families who are screwing it all up, as badly or worse than we are?
No one’s perfect, least of all my characters. And that’s just fine, because none of us readers are perfect, either.
- Kristina Riggle
To spend some time with Kristina Riggle’s dysfunctional fictional family, you can pick up your own copy of Things We Didn’t Say in stores now!