Today on my blog I am delighted to be taking part in the Fierce Kingdom blog tour with a guest post by Gin Phillips.
There are big dramatic moments in my new novel, Fierce Kingdom—there are gunmen and chase scenes and life-or-death situations. But there are small moments, too, and those moments can have as much impact as any weapon.
More than one character in my novel remembers some small gesture by a long-ago teacher that continues to ripple through their adult lives. That’s no coincidence. As for me, my first grade teacher gave me a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She didn’t give anyone else a book. I still remember the pale sherbet green of the cabinets next to us, and I remember how she pointed to the inscription she’d written on the first page, and I remember the perfect white of her hair.
I was well-aware that she had chosen me and only me. But more than the sense of specialness—which was its own pleasure, an almost physical warmth—I also felt some sort of obligation. I wouldn’t have had words for that then, but it was as if she expected something of me. She saw some sort of possibility.
I had many teachers after that who spent time and energy encouraging me and who became something close to family. But I think back to that first grade moment often—that passing of the book from her hand to my hand.
There are small moments that loom large. They ripple through the years, growing stronger instead of dimmer. They are not always obvious at the time. I think teachers are in a particular position to bring about those moments, although they aren’t the only ones.
When I was still in grade school, I went to a business conference with my father. At dinner one night, we sat at a round table with strangers, and I chatted with the grandfatherly man next to me. I don’t remember what we talked about. I remember him laughing. And as everyone else began pushing back their chairs, he leaned toward me and held out his hand. He held a brown nut, polished to a glossy shine.
“It’s a buckeye,” he told me.
He explained that buckeyes were good luck. This one in particular, he said, must be very good luck, because his mother had given it to him before he left for World War II, and he’d carried it in his pocket for all the years he was in Europe. He’d thought he’d pass it on to his own child, but he never had any children. So he’d been unsure, as he got older, what he would do with it. He’d decided that he wanted to give it to me. He put it in my hand and closed my fingers around it. I didn’t even know his name.
As my father said soon after, either that man liked me, or he carried a bunch of nuts in his pockets and went around lying to a bunch of little kids.
I never saw the man again, although I think of him often. I think of the ways we can tell someone with one quick gesture—just a few seconds—that they are worth something. That they are expected to do something. What a difference it makes, I think, to have someone who is not obligated by blood or attachment see something in you that sets you apart.
In my novel, the relationship between a mother and son is at the core of the story. I thought about motherhood plenty while writing, but I also thought plenty about how we are shaped—however briefly—by plenty of people who are not are parents. Neighbors. Teachers. Strangers.
There are small moments. They can grow to be immense.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Lincoln is a good boy. At the age of four, he is curious, clever and well behaved. He does as his mum says and knows what the rules are.
'The rules are different today. The rules are that we hide and do not let the man with the gun find us.'
When an ordinary day at the zoo turns into a nightmare, Joan finds herself trapped with her beloved son. She must summon all her strength, find unexpected courage and protect Lincoln at all costs - even if it means crossing the line between right and wrong; between humanity and animal instinct.
It's a line none of us would ever normally dream of crossing.
But sometimes the rules are different.
This is a terrific novel from Gin Phillips and you can see my original review here
Publication date: 15th June 2017
Print length: 288 pages
FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR