In A Likely Story, the only child of a famous American novelist and east coast society maven, is gripped with writer’s block and a mid-life crisis when she can’t follow her father’s successful path. Her life is further upended when her adored mother dies and the daughter discovers some shocking secrets about her family. She begins to wonder if everything she knew about her family was all based on an ornate lie.
This is a story with many themes – the double-edged sword of nepotism, imposter syndrome, the loneliness and challenges of being a writer, maternal guilt, how success doesn’t always bring happiness, and how life events can change flawed characters helping them to grow and develop.
Abramson’s characters are richly portrayed and often not very likeable, but importantly, not hateable either. Abramson succeeds in making the reader care about some of the more frustrating and flawed protagonists. What’s more, the book is never boring, not for an instant. The story jumps around time wise, includes a story within a story and is told from four very different points of view. And while there’s a lot going on, it’s easy to follow. Abramson never loses sight of the plot or the reader.
Here’s my Q&A with the New York-based author.
You open your book with two wonderful quotes –
“Well, I’ve been afraid of changing, ‘Cause I’ve built my life around you” Stevie Nicks
‘Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” Albert Camus
They sum up your novel so well. Can you tell us any more about how these two quotes inspired your story telling.
I was driving one day when the song Landslide came on, and when I heard that line (and the ones after it, ‘but time makes you bolder, even children get older, I’m getting older too’) and I thought, that is exactly Isabelle’s story. She builds her whole life around her father and then realizes she must dismantle it (but because of copyright laws I could only use the first two lines!)
The Camus I came upon while cleaning out a bookcase of old high school books and I thought that it was so perfect for Claire. I love that the quotes really capture the arcs of the two women in the story.
Your title- A Likely Story – is first mentioned in the story within the story Underpainting: “So Livia thinks she’s the mastermind behind Aiden’s success? Oh please, a likely story.” Can you tell us about the title and how you decided on it?
The book was originally sold under the title, The Writers Daughter, which I liked because for the first half of the book you think it refers to one parent, and by the second half you realize it refers to the other. But I do think A Likely Story is more intriguing and subtle and fits the book better. It gets at the idea of how much is missed if we just believe the obvious version of stories and don’t peel back the layers to look at what’s really going on. And it also elevates the theme of women’s contributions to art and how often they are overlooked.
You can read the rest of my Q&A here on 26.