About two years ago, a galley of a debut novel called LIAR’S DIARY by Patry Francis turned up in my mailbox.Â I receive galleys all the time, and the author of this one was unfamiliar to me, so I had no reason to pay any special attention to it.Â Often I don’t have the time to even crack open the covers, much less read them.Â But this one had a seductive cover, and since I was headed up to CanadaÂ for a medical conference anyway,Â I threwÂ theÂ galleyÂ into my suitcase.Â Â A day later, sitting in my hotel room in St. Andrew’s, I started reading it.Â In straightforward but compelling prose, it opened quietly.Â No explosions, no murders, just a gnawing sense of domestic unease that grew more acute and more disturbing with every chapter.Â I was caught like a hooked fish and reeled helplessly into the story.Â I recall sitting in a seaside restaurant, my outdoorÂ table facing the water, but my eyes glued to the page.Â The waitress who came to refill my water glass commented, “Wow, that must be a good book.”
Damn rightÂ itÂ was.
I was delighted to give that book aÂ blurb, and delighted to hear that so many other readers shared my opnion of it.Â Patry thanked me profuselyÂ and although we never met, we did exchange several emails.Â The book was released, Patry’s career as a novelist was launched, and I looked forward to seeing other books from her.
Then, on Patry’s blog, she recently revealed that her life had taken a sudden and devastating turn.Â SheÂ was diagnosied withÂ an aggressive cancer, for which she had to be hospitalized.Â Â Although she’s home now, and her prognosis is good, naturally it’s her recovery that’s consuming her attention.Â Not the novel writing.Â Not anything as trivial as fictionalÂ stories and people who don’t exist.Â
She is coping with real life.
We writers often get so caught up in our fictional worlds that we forget our own lives and our own needs.Â It takes something like this — a real illness, a real crisis — toÂ make us focus on what’s truly important.Â
Here’s to you, Patry.Â Â May you come back from this illness stronger than ever.Â May you go on to write many, many more books like LIAR’S DIARY.Â All of us — readers and writers alike — are rooting for you.