Sympathy for the Devil
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?
It is easier to have sympathy for Laurel because she made such a complete turnaround to care for Andy. It’s a lot harder to have sympathy when the mother leaves others to clean up after her, so to speak. And yet, at the same time, I ultimately feel sorry for someone who continues to make such a mess of her own and a child’s life. What a miserable place of self-hatred to be in.
I’m sending my own manuscript to an expert soon to evaluate how well I’ve portrayed my deaf character’s world. I’m terrified!!
One of ours and my biggest fear was ppd. Dan would always ask me how i was. I do have slight depression but thats the struggle of a relationship that began with a baby. we love each other dearly but had to spend the 9 months before i gave birth getting to know each other and fighting a lot. we survived and have a very beautiful son our disagreements are down to a minimal. Gunnar is doing great hes about 7 weeks and already a ham he is so much fun to be around as he laughs and giggles. Hes stirring in his crib right now.
Diane, if I was asked which character I cared about the most in BEFORE THE STORM it would be Laurel. I knew from the very beginning of the book that she must have redeemed herself somewhere along the way because of your opening paragraph and how she ‘would never let him go’…there was a tremendous story going on with this book but my heartfelt feeling is that this book was really Laurel’s story…hearbreaking but also healing while learning to forgive ‘self’. I felt compassion for Laurel because she took hold of her life and worked at rebuilding her world.
I find it difficult to understand why anyone smokes or drinks while pregnant…that being said, Laurel was suffering PPD, and she was not HERSELF as we say today. I feel total sympathy for her. I took fertility drugs to have my children…was bedridden and ill and on tons of drugs (Prescribed) to carry my son…I lost a baby right after that…I was also bedridden and on meds during my daughter…I had to have my children quickly (Endometriosis)…They were about 21 months apart (ended up one year apart in school because of birthdays). To be totally honest, I took anything they gave me to have a child…I was fed intravenously during the pregnancies=had no vitamins by mouth-no milk-no anything until the last month and then hardly any food. It is easy to judge others until one walks in those shoes. Thankfully, I had two miracles, and when they both ended up graduating as Valedictorians, the doctor who delivered me wrote that they were MIRACLES…I can remember others judging me when I was trying to carry my children…I lost 20plus pounds with each child…it was not easy…others did not help…My heart goes out to Laurel.
I was actually surprised by my reaction to Laurel…that I did feel sympathy for her. I think a lot of that had to do with the non-judgmental way in which you wrote the novel, Diane. You helped the reader understand how something like that could happen. Plus, Laurel was such a wonderful mother to Andy…I think she was probably harder on herself than anyone else could have been on her.
This book is not only for entertainment-as are all of your books, Diane, it has a message for the public…these things happen…they are real. Thanks to publicity, the book is getting mainstream notice and will (hopefully) help others who might not sit down and read a book about the topic…(nonfiction)
I haven’t read the book yet, but I think what Diane probably successfully accomplished was creating a multi-dimensional character. It is too easy to see people in purely black-and-white terms: she is all bad, she is a terrible mother, etc. There is almost always so much more to a human being than that, and yet we tend to want to reduce people to a good-evil persona. But real life is a bit messier than that! No one is all one thing or another, there are few pure sinners or saints among us, and showing this is what makes some characters come alive, engender sympathy, etc. Having said that…children (and animals) are often the most innocent of victims, and topics like this stir up many emotions.
The “devil” title made me think of Vampires. My students love the series TWILIGHT by Stephanie Meyers…She has become famous overnight. However, most reviews of the 4th in the series are not good. I do not see the appeal-but high school girls think VAMPIRES are “cool”. Have you ladies read the books? I could not get into them, but then they are for the younger set…
Brenda, I just started TWILIGHT Sat nite and my mother started it also…with the full moon out it was a good choice I think…we’ve heard so much about this series and both bought the book. Everywhere I go I hear people talking about this series.