Cheryl Strayed's Wild meets Katherine Center's How to Walk Away in Kathleen Basi's debut novel about an unconventional road trip and what it means to honor the ones we love.
It's one year after the death of her husband and twin teenagers, and Miriam Tedesco has lost faith in humanity and herself. When a bouquet of flowers that her husband always sends on their anniversary shows up at her workplace, she completely unravels. With the help of her best friend, she realizes that it's time to pick up the pieces and begin to move on.
Step one is not even cleaning out her family's possessions, but just taking inventory starting with her daughter's room. But when she opens her daughter's computer, she stumbles across a program her daughter has created detailing an automated cross-country road trip, for her and her husband to take as soon-to-be empty nesters.
Seeing and hearing the video clips of her kids embedded in the program, Miriam is determined to take this trip for her children. Armed with her husband's guitar, her daughter's cello, and her son's unfinished piano sonata, she embarks on a musical pilgrimage to grieve the family she fears she never loved enough. Along the way she meets a young, pregnant hitchhiker named Dicey, whose boisterous and spunky attitude reminds Miriam of her own daughter.
Tornadoes, impromptu concerts, and an unlikely friendship...whether she's prepared for it or not, Miriam's world is coming back to life. But as she struggles to keep her focus on the reason she set out on this journey, she has to confront the possibility that the best way to honor her family may be to accept the truths she never wanted to face.
Hopeful, honest, and tender, A Song for the Road is about courage, vulnerability, and forgiveness, even of yourself, when it really matters.
Q & A with Kathleen ~
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.
I grew up on a farm, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I used to write in the tree house, in the hay barn, even on a low barn roof. My whole life, writing stories has been my “me” time. When I was studying music in college and grad school, writing was my reward for four hours of practicing a day. Even now, when it’s progressed from hobby to profession, I still get excited every day. Also, I still like writing outside. I don’t use a smart phone, so when I’m away from wifi I am well and truly undistracted!
What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
Cooking, bicycling, kayaking, hiking, and gardening—to name a few.
Do you have a go-to first reader after you feel your manuscript is ready?
I have a top-notch group of critique partners who review my rough drafts chunk by chunk. Conventional wisdom says “don’t edit while you’re drafting!” But my critique partners flag problems that could derail the whole thing. Sometimes they see the same section three times before I move forward in my rough draft. It slows the drafting phase but saves a TON of time in revision!
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
This is the fourth book I’ve queried (in other words, pitching to literary agents). It was a roller coaster getting to a book deal, that’s for sure! I had to cling obstinately to my belief in my writing. I knew I was good enough, but waiting for the break and not getting it can crush your spirit if you let it. Thank God, I also do nonfiction writing and musical composing, so I had other things to keep me busy in the interim.
Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?
Like Miriam in A SONG FOR THE ROAD, I’m a church musician. Some of the questions she wrestles in its pages are questions I’ve also wrestled—but thankfully not the central question of the book!
Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
So many! But the one that comes to mind was among the last to be written. Midway through the book, Miriam plays her husband’s guitar on rural Iowa’s High Trestle Trail Bridge (go look it up!). This scene had been consistently problematic because the situation she encountered at the bridge was so absurd. At the suggestion of my editor at Alcove, it became something totally different. Miriam encounters a widower, and her music facilitates a wonderful moment of healing and connection. It’s absolutely gorgeous and uplifting.
What are you working on now?
My next book is set in California wine country. It’s the story of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law struggling to rebirth their family business and their own lives after the man they shared (son/husband) self-destructed, burning down the winery with himself inside it.
Favorite band or music?
I have two degrees in music, so classical is my happy place. Here are three standouts:
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto #2 (the Russian pairs skaters Mishketunok & Dmitriev skated to it at the Lillehammer Olympics and it was spectacular!)
Place you’d like to travel?
Everywhere! I hope to walk the Camino de Santiago someday—when the kids are self-sufficient, and one of my lifelong dreams is to live a year in Alaska, so I can really see the northern lights.
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