Review - The Book of Someday by Dianne Dixon

The Book of Someday is Dianne Dixon's second novel, and like her first (The Language of Secrets, 2010-11), it's a great read.

Her latest interweaves the stories of three women who share a disturbing history but don't know each other.  

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The book opens with Livvi Gray, a shy and insecure writer with a dark past who is haunted by a recurring dream about a woman in a silver dress and pearl-button shoes. Livvi is experiencing some success with her writing and meets a new man who is everything she wants, except she has a feeling he's withholding something from her.

Meanwhile, we meet Micah, a hard-driving and wildly successful photographer who's kept people at bay all of her life. She has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and suddenly she feels it important to visit several people she has slighted in the past. She begins a cross-country journey to make amends. At least that's her intention.

Then Dixon takes us back in time twenty-six years to tell the story of Anna Lee, a new mother whose husband can't seem to hold a job or make her happy. Despite her misgivings, she agrees to take in her husband's troubled teenage niece for the summer. Fireworks ensue.

A former screenwriter, Dixon is a skilled storyteller. Her characters come alive on the page and we begin to care about all three women. But it's not until the final pages of the book that we discover how these three women are connected. For me, that was frustrating, even though the resolution was more than satisfying.

If you like stories with mystery and a twist at the end, you'll enjoy The Book of Someday

Writers Under Lock and Key

In a recent New York Times Book Review piece, Tony Perrottet writes about a number of authors throughout history who were especially productive when imprisoned. Among them are the Marquis de Sade, Marco Polo, Napoleon Bonaparte and Oscar Wilde. Perrottet makes the point that writers often are most productive when they are forced into isolation – away from the distractions of life.

Writers live for distraction; anything to keep us from having to face a blank page, it seems. Yet we complain constantly about not being able to find time to write. I hear it especially from new writers: How do you find the time to write? How do you focus/break through writer’s block/get started, etc.?

Most serious writers I know intentionally disconnect from the world. I turn off e-mail and close my Internet browser, then try to put aside for later temptations like Google searches related to what I’m writing. It’s not easy, but it is doable.

Something that works for me, too, is getting out of my routine space. So, instead of sitting at my desk where I do other work, I’ll sometimes take my computer to the dining room table. Or drive to a local café and write there for an hour or two.

If you can get away for a weekend, or even a week or two, do it. A weeklong writers retreat can be extremely productive, especially if it’s in a remote spot where Internet access is limited or non-existent. Silence that smartphone! Promise yourself an Internet orgy if you can get 500 solid words written in the next hour or so.

I’ve written in the past about my writing buddies and our semi-annual writing retreats. For nearly five years we (anywhere from eight to 14 of us) have traipsed up the coast of California to a small beach town where we de-camp for a week and write. Internet access is limited; but more important, we stay holed up in our rooms most of the day and write. I rewrote an entire book during one of our retreats. That said, this only works if one has the willpower to write while on retreat. It can be very tempting to hang out on the beach or sleep in the rooftop hammocks instead. But there’s group pressure, so most of us get a lot of writing done.

Imagine being locked in a cell with nothing else to do for months on end. No wonder the marquis was so productive. Perrottet tells us that after 11 years in prison, Sade had written eight novels and short story collections, 16 historical novellas, a diary, two volumes of essays and 20 plays.

For most of us, it boils down to willpower. Treat your writing as a job. Go to “work” every day by sitting down somewhere and producing 500 or 1,000 words. Then pour yourself a lemonade and … go back and write some more.