A Real Daughter

by Lynne McKelvey



About the Book




About the Author


Author: First Person




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Author: First Person


It started with a garden. My own garden, a garden composed of varied textures, subtle colors, and pungent smells. A drought-resistant garden, one that belonged in the dry terrain of Southern California. In the novel, Claire, the main character, flees to Los Angeles after her infant daughter dies and reinvents herself as a landscape gardener. Like children, plants need to be tended in order to thrive. Unlike children, plants – if they die – don't break your heart. Author with designer, Barry Campion, 1989
Author with designer, Barry Campion, 1989
Frisky the cat     My own daughter didn't die. Now grown, she's the mother of two teen-age boys. When she was six, her cat Frisky died. In a picture she painted afterwards, there was a bright sun, there was a blue sky, and there, with a radiant smile and fully alive, was Frisky. (see chapter 17) At the time, the joyous picture seemed to belie a sad event. Later, I recognized her exuberant portrait was celebrating a beloved pet.
In the course of writing A Real Daughter, I always had fun "fact checking" the novel's various locales. While writing chapter 26, I spent a morning tide-pooling in Malibu.

Author at tide pools
Author at tide pools
Author at Tar Pits
Author at Tar Pits

For chapter 28, I visited the La BreaTar Pits, gooey black pools smack in the middle of Los Angeles that preserve millions of bones from the Ice Age.
"Burro cebra in Tijuana
Burro-cebra in Tijuana
And of course, to figure out Claire's logistics in chapters 4 and 33, I "had" to go to Tijuana, not once, but several times as my characters and story evolved and the town assumed increasing importance.

I never planted a garden. I never had a child that died. But in the course of growing this novel, I also grew myself. I learned about native plants, about inter-tidal zones, about a Mexican city just a couple of hours down the road from Los Angeles that seems thousands of miles away. And, over the years it took to write this novel, by imagining Claire, by inhabiting her fictional character, I became aware of powerful, often destructive forces that can accrue, converge, and eventually even possess a mother whose child dies unexpectedly.

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