Those of you who’ve read Before the Storm know that one of the main characters, Laurel Lockwood, develops post partum depression after the birth of her baby Maggie. With the depression undiagnosed and severe, she begins to drink as a way to escape her sadness and shame. She continues to drink wine coolers even after learning she’s pregnant with her son, Andy, who is born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
Writing about Laurel with sympathy was my challenge. Reading about her with sympathy has been a challenge for some of my readers as well. Jodee Kulp is one such reader, and her opinion is important to me because Jodee served as my FASD consultant as I wrote about Andy. You see, Jodee is the mother of an adopted daughter with FASD and the author of several books on the subject, as well as an upcoming novel, The Whitest Wall, featuring an FASD character. Jodee has been a close witness to the havoc maternal drinking can take on an unborn child. Letting Jodee read Before the Storm was a bit nerve wracking! I knew how hard it would be for her to read about Laurel’s behavior. Here’s a little bit of what Jodee had to say:
I struggled with Laurel as she struggled with her alcoholism and depression, knowing what she was creating, understanding the damage she was doing to the small person growing within, knowing with my own angst. I rejoiced in her rehabilitation . . . Life itself has many twists and turns and true to life, what often appears to be reality is only bits of truth. Before the Storm does justice to the work of families struggling with alcohol and its many outcomes. It does justrice to the reality of human frailty and interconnected relationships. . . .I hope Diane’s work will add awareness of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder to those who need to know.
I can only imagine how hard it must have been for Jodee to keep an open mind as she read about Laurel and I’m pleased I was able to make her into a character Jodee could ultimately care about. What do you think? Whether you’ve read Before the Storm or not, do you think you could have sympathy for someone like Laurel?