In Mary Curran Hackett's first novel, Proof of Heaven (Morrow, November 1, 2011), a young boy has a heart condition that causes him to die and come back to life several times--echoing the author's own life. Though Hackett has had a few near–death experiences of her own, she has never been to heaven. But that hasn't stopped her from looking for proof.
On your nightstand now:
My nightstand is a stack of books. I have no less than 50 books in stacks balancing my phone, alarm and pacemaker-check machine right now. Some are book club picks (I am in three), some I have bought (or borrowed from the library) with every intention to read, but haven't had the time yet. I am reading Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society for one club right now. My husband wants me to read In the Garden of Beasts, his most recent Erik Larson favorite, so that is on deck. I also just added Ann Patchett's State of Wonder and Helen Simonson's Major Pettigrew's Last Stand to the stack yesterday. I just finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay for my other book clubs and haven't moved them to a shelf yet. I loved them both and keep picking them up. The Book Thief will be my new "give as a gift" book. I also keep Amy Sedaris's Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People nearby for laughs. Her workout leotard kills me.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Little Women. As a girl, I kept reading it over and over--hoping that Jo would change her mind about Laurie and that Beth wouldn't die. Of course, neither ever happened. But I loved it anyway for making me feel so much.
Your top five authors:
As Cam on Modern Family put it when having to make a decision: "It's like Sophie's Choice. I can't do it!" But I'll try (in no particular order): Dave Eggers, Alice McDermott, Colm Tóibín, Charles Dickens and Tobias Wolff.
Book you've faked reading:
Silence of the Lambs. I never made it through the movie either. But as a teenager, I didn't want my friends to think I was lame (which I was/still am), so I totally lied about it.
Book you're an evangelist for:
What Is the What by Dave Eggers. I want every college student I know (or at least the ones who constantly whine about how hard their lives are--in warm dorms, on a U.S. college campus, learning subjects from actual books) to read the story, which is about a young boy's journey to and from refugee camps, to come back to me and tell me again how rough they've got it. Perspective is a powerful panacea.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly--the lovely illustrated cover caught my eye in the bookstore. I bought it on a whim and ended up reading it with my daughter. It turned out to be our favorite summer read. I have stacks of books for purely aesthetic purposes--based on color and/or design--all over my house. I just formed a stack of turquoise–colored books, because they match the new wall color in my living room. (No worries. I don't just buy books for props. I've read or will read them all. But, in all honesty, books make very nice household decorations....)
Book that changed your life:
Every book changes me in some way, but probably none so profoundly as Sharon Salzberg's Faith. Many years ago, a friend of mine who is a former Buddhist monk handed this book to me during a particularly painful time in my life. Faith made me understand that regardless of our religion (or if we even have a connection to any deity at all), we have within us already the ability to create inner peace simply by loving and feeling compassion toward every person we meet, even (and at times most especially) the ones who have harmed us. I was at the lowest point in my life before I read this book, and after reading it my entire life turned around. It's a testimony to what words, especially the right ones chosen by a wise person and delivered the right time, can really do.
Favorite line from a book:
"When we are green, still half–created, we believe that our dreams are rights, that the world is disposed to act in our best interests, and that falling and dying are for quitters. We live on the innocent and monstrous assurance that we alone, of all the people ever born, have a special arrangement whereby we will be allowed to stay green forever." --Tobias Wolff, This Boy's Life: A Memoir
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. As a teen, I missed out on most of a family vacation because I couldn't put it down and leave my room. I never felt such a rush to get through a book, only to find myself crying when it was all over. I've read it a couple of times since then--but it was never the same as the first.