Happy “Paperback Birthday” to ONE FOR THE MURPHYS by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. The hard cover version has had a wonderful year, and I wish its paperback little sister even more success!
Turning “soft” is part of the natural life-cycle of a book, but it is only a small portion of its Life. We all have favorite stories that have wormed their way into our hearts, and influence our daily lives through conversation, quotes, or contemplations. How an audience reacts to a story, and what they take from it and keep for themselves, is something no author can predict.
Pardon today’s reblog, then, about one small moment in the Life of ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, after it left the author’s desk. We write stories for many reasons, but in the end, we hope that someone will read them and connect to what we’ve written. I hope this particular copy reached its intended audience! Read on, Macduff:
We’ve all been there. You can tell the moment you answer the door that this person is there to sell you something. Usually magazines. Sometimes new windows. Or the deal of a lifetime on a lawn care system. Almost always, I’m pretty militant about sending them on their way. I don’t even open the door, just shout a hearty, “NOT INTERESTED, THANK YOU!” and watch them fumble with their pamphlets as I move back into the safety of my house.
But today was different. For one thing, I was outside, weeding. Nowhere to hide. For another thing, the woman who approached me (for the record, yes – she was selling magazines) started with her life story instead of her sales pitch. Or maybe that was her sales pitch. Who knows. But whatever it was, today was different.
“I never thought I’d be going door to door,” she told me, after introducing herself. She said she was in a job training program through a nationwide organization (that much, I later confirmed, was legit).
“I’m working hard to finish this program and prove to the state that I am stable enough to get my kids back.” Uh-huh, okay, what are you selling, and how much is it going to cost me? Still, there was something in her eyes. She looked so tired. I stood up, brushed off my knees, and moved toward her. Maybe her story was real, maybe not. Without a door to shut between us, I figured the least I could do was make eye contact with her.
Then she seemed to deviate from her script. She told me she had recently been hospitalized after being beaten by her long-time boyfriend. She kicks herself for not listening to her 12-year-old daughter who begged her to leave him. And she was working hard to get her life in order so that she could get her kids out of the foster care system, where they’d been ever since the beating.
This is where the hairs on my arms and neck stood up. Sadly, I know this is not an uncommon story. However, the particular familiarity of it was freaking me out. I felt like one of the characters in Lynda Mulally Hunt’s newly published One For the Murphys (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books) was standing in my driveway and talking to me.
Here is an overview of the story (From Barnes and Noble, One For the Murphys):
“A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family’s love. Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she’s blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong—until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She’s not really a Murphy, but the gifts they’ve given her have opened up a new future.”
So yeah, my hair stood on end. The book moved me, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it’s story and message. In the story, Carley learns that you can lean on good people to help you in a bad situation. Something about the similarity between Mullaly Hunt’s tale and the one this woman was sharing with me made me listen to her, instead of brushing her off. Maybe I’m a schmuck. But just in case, when I went inside for my checkbook, I also picked up a signed copy of the book I had gotten at a recent Wellesley Books event. I gave it to the woman, and wrote her daughter’s name inside. When I explained the premise of the book, the woman said she couldn’t imagine how her daughter would feel reading it, knowing she is not alone.