Set in a Colorado ski town, Kaya McLaren's How I Came To Sparkle Again is a remarkable breakout novel that chronicles three people and their journey from loss to love; heartbreak to hope.
Jill Anthony spent her young adulthood in the ski town of Sparkle, Colorado. But more than a decade has passed since she left when, only weeks after a very late miscarriage, she finds her husband in bed with another woman, she flees Austin, Texas for the town she knows: Sparkle.
Lisa Carlucci wakes up one morning after another night of meaningless sex, looks in the mirror and realizes that she no longer wants to treat her body like a Holiday Inn. She’s going to hold out for love. The only problem is, love might come in the form of her ski bum best friend, who lives next door with his ski bum friends in a trailer known as “the Kennel.”
Cassie Jones, at age ten, has lost her mother to cancer and no longer believes in anything anymore. She knows her father is desperately worried about her, and she constantly looks for messages from her deceased mother through the heart-shaped rocks they once collected in the streams and hills of Sparkle.
Three people at the crossroads of heartbreak and healing. Three lives that will be changed one winter in Sparkle. One tender, funny, tear-jerking novel you won’t soon forget.
Publisher~ St. Martin's Press
Genre~ General Fiction/Women's Fiction
Author~ Kayla McLaren
Purchase this book: Barnes & Noble and Amazon
About the Author :
KAYA MCLAREN is also author of On The Divinity of Second Chances and Church of the Dog. She lives and teaches third and fourth graders on the east slope of Snoqualmie Pass in Washington State. When Kaya’s not working, she likes to telemark ski, sit in hot springs, moonlight hike, and play in lakes with her dog, Big Cedar.
An Interview with Kayla :
Welcome to A Bookish Libraria, Kayla! We'd like to get to know you better. Here are some questions for you...
1) Please tell us if there was a special person in your life who drew attention to the fact that you could write.
When I was in high school, I'd write letters to my Uncle Scott who lived in New York, and his then-partner Uncle Rick, who both thought I was so funny.
2) You chose a specific place and time to write about, what made you choose it?
When I started this book, I was living and teaching on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation in Northern New Mexico. My first year there was so rough that I used to cry on my way to work each morning. What saved me that spring break and the next two winters was rediscovering skiing. A group of guys who were, well, rough around the edges, took me under their wings, and I'd often think no one would ever guess by looking at them that they were really my angels. It was this idea of unlikely angels that I wanted to write about.
3) Does the concept for your story come to you first or the characters?
Definitely the characters. Plot is my weakness.
4) In your opinion, what makes a book a great one?
There are lots of ways books can be great, I think. There are books where the words are delicious, and books that challenge us not to over-simplify issues or judge too quickly. Some books offer us the opportunity to see the world through different eyes. I like that. But personally, I love books where the story is happy and hopeful. It could be that I value pleasure over greatness.
5) If you were able to have dinner with one other author of any time period, who would it be? Why?
Jane Goodall. She's my hero.
6) Read any good books in the past 6 months? And, please name one favorite contemporary woman author. (I know, it’s unfair to ask you to name only one)
You know, I had cancer scare and a surgery a few months ago, and three books in particular were like life rafts to me. First, THE YEAR OF YES, by Maria Dahvana Headly made me laugh hysterically the day before and the morning of my surgery. What a blessing that was. And then, as I recovered, I read THE PEACH KEEPER and THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON by Sarah Addison Allen, because I knew I could count on her to tell me a fun, quirky, magical stories that wouldn't weaken me or bring me down, and that she'd deliver a happy ending. I started re-reading SOLAR STORMS by Linda Hogan, my all-time favorite book, but had to stop until my own writing was finished. When I read while I write, I find myself thinking about their stories instead of mine, so when I'm writing, I read poetry and non-fiction. I've reading FOR LOVERS OF GOD EVERYWHERE (a collection of poems by Christian Mystics), and BLINK. Recently, I've been thinking about HORSE HEAVEN, by Jane Smiley and wanting to read that one again. It's my second all-time favorite book.
7) Please share with us the underlying message of your book. What would you like your readers to take away after having read the book?
The underlying message might be that life goes on, and that while things don't always work out the way we wanted, in the end it's usually okay. Or, the underlying message might be that love and family often come to us in forms we didn't expect or in unexpected ways. I believe there is opportunity in any given set of circumstances, and I think we can see those opportunities better when we have an open heart. A broken heart is an open heart, so sometimes it is those moments following our darkest hours when we find the most interesting opportunities. Hope is what I'd like my readers to take away, but you know, it's enough if they were entertained and had a nice imaginary ski vacation for a few hours.
8) Were you able to keep your original title? What was it, if not?
I was, although when I first wrote the book, I wrote it in first person, so a first person title made sense. After I changed the book to third person, I wanted to change the title, but my people were already attached to it. It is a catchy title.
9) Is there a song or music in general that might best represent your book as a theme song?
"Falling Down the Mountainside" by, David Gray.
10) If you could write your book again, what would you change?
Well, originally this was a book about a woman that ends up single and happy. I'm single and happy, so that seemed reasonable to me. I wanted to give hope and help to women that have had the rug pulled out beneath them. Not everyone knows how to be single and happy. It is an art form. It helps to have a big dog to warm your bed before you get in (or at least one of those flax bags you heat up in the microwave) and a group of rowdy friends to ski with. You also need to appreciate peace, leftovers that last forever so you never need to cook, and the freedom to put all your clothes in the bathroom cupboards and the freedom not to do a single dish during ski season. There's time for that in June. You also need the ability to recognize family when you find members, because family comes in a lot of forms. You just have to informally adopt everybody. Anyway, sadly my then-people didn't think there was enough of a story in this idea, and they told me that my readers would want a more conventional happy ending. On one hand, it broke my heart to change the book so that instead of saying, "You can be single and happy like me!" it now was one more thing in this world telling women that you need a man to have a happy ending. On the other hand, after I changed it, there was an undeniable improvement to the plot. And really, everyone wants to be appreciated and comforted and loved, so maybe there's nothing wrong with a romantic ending.
11) Did you have to do any research you hadn’t expected?
I had to learn about the process of divorce. Since I've never been married, I never thought I'd have to learn about that. I also interviewed my ski patroller friends. Those were interesting discussions.
12) Tell us about your cover. How did you determine what it would look like?
I had nothing to do with the cover, which is why it's so brilliant. Don't you love it? I love it.
13) What does your book have to say about today’s women?
That when it comes to love and sex, we are confused and maybe a little broken, but not hopeless.
Thanks for putting up with our nosy bits! :] Loved having a chance to find out more about who you are. Your book rings stronger than ever to me, now...
The Bookish Dame Reviews :
What a sparkling book about the joys of friendship, the devastation of grief and loss and the ups and downs of love. This book will keep you in suspense, warm your heart, and put you in touch with feelings you've forgotten you had. I loved the way Kayla McLaren eased me into the lives of her primary characters. I found myself caring for them right from the beginning and wishing I could offer them the support and love they deserved. Such is the sparkle and magic of this book.
McLaren knows how to build a grand plot. Taking us from the lowest points in her characters' lives, she pulls us along the trails of their heartbreaks and tears as they learn to cope and resolve the shattered glass of what's left. Friendships old and new help put them back together. It's these dear and deep relationships that make one want to read on through the ups and downs. And, it's the new loves and new developments that carry us on from page to page. Faith and laughter also spice up the lives of the characters bringing them the healing power of love in all its dimensions.
The characters here are strong and so lovable. Cassie, the 10 yr. old child whose mother died grabs your heart from these pages and makes it impossible to put the book away. She is a child in such pain you can't turn her down! The other characters are believable and feel like old friends. Kayla McLaren is a master at characterization, making her book a beautiful read.
All in all, this is a refreshing novel that will sparkle as you read it. Refreshing even in its poignant nature. McLaren is a writer we'll hear more of, I have no doubt. She's a great new women's storyteller.
4 stars Deborah/TheBookishDame