Claire and Mia Fontaine are the co-authors of two memoirs, Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back (2008), and Have Mother, Will Travel (Morrow, July 17, 2012). Their new book explores the mother/adult daughter relationship, mid-life/20-something trials and tribulations, and women's lives, all while on a madcap global scavenger hunt through 11 countries and 18 cities in three weeks, followed by a magical summer in Provence. Mia lives in New York City; Claire divides her time between France and the U.S.
On your nightstand now:
Claire: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien and A River Runs Through It by Norman MacLean.
Mia: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (same guy who wrote The Men Who Stare at Goats). I love quirky nonfiction reads and the way he turns what could be a disturbing and depressing subject into something that's funny, irreverent, touching, and thought-provoking is brilliant.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Claire: Any Dr. Seuss book.
Mia: It's a tie between The Black Stallion by Walter Farley and Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. I grew up a tomboy who loved animals and nature (yet was a pet-less girl living in a city apartment), and these books let me live out my fantasy.
Your top five authors:
Claire: Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Cormac McCarthy, David Sedaris, William Shakespeare.
Mia: Mary Roach, Erik Larson and Laura Hillenbrand because I so admire their writing careers, Barbara Kingsolver because The Poisonwood Bible was such a masterpiece, and Alain de Botton because his observations about life and the world are so interesting that I want to camp out in his head.
Book you've faked reading:
Claire: I can't think of one--not because there isn't one, there are probably many, but my memory for what I have read, as late as last week, is terrible.
Mia: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I wanted to love them because practically everyone I know does but I just couldn't get into either. I've also never read anything by Hemingway, which I've never admitted because it's embarrassing!
Book you're an evangelist for:
Claire: Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, which swept me away completely. When I took Mia to tour colleges, I kept sneaking off from campus to finish reading it--rather shabby of me. Aside from the sheer brilliance and power of the writing itself, it's flawless in all aspects--character, plot, theme, tone, arena.
Mia: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I could read that book once a year and still find it as wise, enthralling and haunting as the first time I picked it up.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Claire: I have a design and art history background, so I'll go into a bookstore just to look at book covers, but I can't say I'd buy merely for the cover (though arguably, having picked one up for a cover does make a sale more likely). On the other hand, I've bought and read many great books with downright bad covers.
Mia: I honestly can't think of anything!
Book that changed your life:
Claire: As a girl, it was any Nancy Drew book. They made me feel that a girl could do anything, that we could be clever and powerful, that we could break into crumbling ruins, dash through the woods at night after bad guys, and make daring escapes in our cool roadster, all while wearing a satin ball gown and fabulous shoes. Between Nancy and John Wayne, I got my never-say-die, can-do 'tude.
Mia: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. I'd never considered vegetarianism, but one road trip trapped inside a car while my dad played the audio book, and I never ate meat again. Sometimes I almost wish I hadn't listened, however, because it ruined some of my favorite meals!
Favorite line from a book:
Claire: I'm going to be shabby again and use two lines, because I need an extra line to set it up. It's from The Hours by Michael Cunningham, in Virginia Woolf's first section: "It is more than the sum of her intellect and her emotions, more than the sum of her experiences, though it runs like veins of brilliant metal through all three. It is an inner faculty that recognizes the animating mysteries of the world because it is made of the same substance, and when she is very fortunate she is able to write directly through that faculty." It's one of the most beautiful, and accurate, descriptions of those rare moments when the words come singing out of you from God knows where.
Mia: For the most part, I skimmed Shakespeare only enough to pass the test, but this line from The Tempest always stuck with me: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life, is rounded with a sleep."
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Claire: Now that I've written that, The Hours by Michael Cunningham.
Mia: Life of Pi by Yann Martel. The twist at the end of that book was one of the best that I'd read in a while, and that's the kind of thing that can surprise you only once!