A book to be savoured
Mary Margaret Carmichael, the hero of this novel, is a well-known author who has been persuaded to publish her autobiography, and it is this that is the basis of a very intriguing story. She enlists the help of family and friends, and their input sets the story off in several unexpected directions.
A chapter is dedicated to each contributor and is used as a layer to build up the life story of Mary Margaret. Her own chapter kicks the whole thing off and is an early indicator of another author’s descriptive powers. Colleen Sayre has her character take a walk from her home to a nearby store and in that short journey we learn a lot about the woman, the town she lives in and the people who inhabit it. We learn what a vulnerable, fragile, solitary soul she is, and how she is held together by rigid determination. We also learn how much she values her solitude. We yearn to know her history and are delighted when it tumbles out of every chapter.
Her history brings you joy, and also intense sadness, and her vulnerability is always on your mind. Mary Margaret’s pops up throughout the book to add her own contribution and pull things together. This is a wonderful and quite unique way to unfold a story and I am now a huge fan of Colleen Sayre. Her book deserves to be read. To me it is a very important piece of literature.
This could be our family
The first thing I want to say is that this is a good book, a very good book; well-written, and sometimes beautifully written. It is the story of Mary Margaret, a successful author, as seen through her own eyes and the eyes of her friends and family. It is told in the first person by Mary Margaret herself, and these other witnesses who have contributed their recollections: her friends, her mother and father, her brothers. These contributions are to be collected and edited into book form. Thus the characters introduce themselves to the reader, but are also described by others. Often, the same incident is reported from two or more perspectives. And, for the most part, this works very well. This is a genuinely moving piece of writing. I believed it. There is light and shade, joy and sorrow, bitterness and forgiveness. This is our family.
When I read, I like to be taken on a journey into the lives of the characters. I want to be drawn into their cares and concerns, their joys and celebrations. Colleen Sayre does this, and does it well. I highly recommend it.
( Author of Maybe They’ll Remember Me)
Wow! It was not what I expected
A Solitary Life is very different than the author’s previous books: Ripple, Minshew the Dragon Dog, and Thunder. It also did not develop as I expected. I usually am able to pin down the story line fairly quickly. Not this one. A Solitary Life uses letters written to a writer, Mary Margaret, to tell her life’s story. It had me engaged from the beginning but also struck me as more than just a novel- that sometimes independence is also a survival tool. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good read.
(Author of The River Chasers)
Edition #22 – December 1, 2012
A SOLITARY LIFE
By Colleen Sayre
I suppose I should talk about my career: how I got started writing, how and why I kept writing. When I turn my mind to my work, nothing comes up for me beyond the everyday pattern of my life. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been writing my entire life that I can’t distinguish a beginning. When I was in college, I had friends who wrote only when they were angry or upset or when they were excited or happy, when some life event took them outside themselves and they felt it necessary to report back in writing.
When I was even younger, it was considered the girly thing to do to write in a diary every night before bed. The few friends I had lugged them to sleep overs and compared the covers and locks and how many times they’d penned fantasy married names in pink and purple ink on the pages. I had a diary, too, a present from my grandmother that I kept hidden under my mattress on the far side of the bed shoved up against the wall where Luther wouldn’t find it. Tessie knew where I hid it but I trusted her like no one else in my life. We didn’t spend much time together, mother made sure of that, but Tessie and I had an understanding. The things I couldn’t tell my mother I could tell Tessie. But never out loud.
Tessie asked me one time when I was six how I’d gotten my black eye. Mother overheard Tessie asking and jumped in to explain.
“Luther was practicing batting out in the back yard and Mary Margaret stepped right into the ball. Thank God it was only a tennis ball. I can only imagine what damage a baseball might have done.”
Tessie shook her head and glared at me and then gave my mother a withering look. Mother, though, had already gone back to whatever she was doing, ignoring me and Tessie, explanation offered, end of story. Tessie looked back at me and shook her head. Tessie seldom talked to me directly, following my mother’s rule to always come to her if she had questions or complaints. So, I wrote a story about a little girl who exacted revenge against the brother who had punched her in the eye and then called it an accident. The story was crude and I’m sure childish and silly, but it was my first attempt at standing up for myself on paper. I folded the story, which took up two pages of wide-ruled notebook paper, and tucked it into the corner of my diary, hoping that Tessie would get the hint and read it. She did. When I came in from school on Monday afternoon, which was laundry day in our house, I got a wink and a smile from Tessie as she set a glass of apple juice and two cookies in front of me at the kitchen table. I smiled back.
I wish I could say that Tessie and I were friends but we weren’t, not really. I think we were both so afraid of my mother that it never occurred to us to try to bridge the gap. Only when I went away to college did I think about the disparity between our family and hers. Tessie looked at our family as her job; my mother looked at Tessie as an employee. Our family took her for granted and when Tessie left, another woman took her place. But during the years that she was with us, my stories for Tessie continued. Tessie was my first loyal reader and the keeper of my childhood secrets, those that were funny and childish anyway. I think I can honestly say that the sense of satisfaction I got from the smile and the wink I received from Tessie was the reason that I continued to write throughout my life. I wrote for me mostly, but there were some things I just had to share with someone and Tessie was my someone.
Writing was also my way to experience love in this world. I’m not sure when I stopped believing in it, love that is, although I don’t really believe in the real world any more either, but that’s another story. It is my understanding that Buddhists believe that ‘life is suffering.’ That philosophy puzzled me for the longest time because I had always thought that life is supposed to be about love and giving and caring for one another. And then I realized that I had been conditioned to think that, that I had been brainwashed into thinking that, but I never really believed it. I believe that the Buddhists are right: life is suffering. Life is one excoriating event after the other, purging us of any hope of a happy ending. It is only in stories that the unjust are punished, good overcomes evil, and all the little kinks and twists and turns of life make sense. Fairy tales always end on a happy note as though the characters are frozen in a moment of exultant revelation and live happily ever after. We don’t see the retaliation, the repercussions, the change that overtakes the beautiful princess and the handsome prince. We don’t see the pettiness that overtakes them as the bright light of their new found love fades and the drudgery of ruling and raising kids and battling for every scrap of sanity invades their lives. We are convinced that from our own adversity and the cheating and lying of others, often those people closest to us, grows peace and calm and happiness. We are hammered into believing that from our bad experiences come understanding and wisdom. But the truth is, often we live unhappily and then we die.
Colleen Sayre is a modern mix of Midwestern vitality, southern sensibilities, and east coast education. She was born in Akron, Ohio, lived her teen-age years in Sylvester, Georgia, and after twenty years of pursuing a college education, received a degree in English from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
After teaching English, psychology, and leadership at a small college near Atlanta, Georgia, Colleen moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she received an MA in Eastern Classics from St. John’s College and certification in hypnotherapy from the Academy of Alternative Therapy.
Following her mother’s tradition of story-telling, Colleen writes children’s books for her grandchildren (Thunder and Minshew the Dragon Dog published in 2011) and ghoulish tales of vampires and zombies for her daughters (Still, The Plan and Aftermath to be published in 2013).
In April of 2012, “Mary Margaret Carmichael tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Start writing,” Colleen says. Her story, A Solitary Life, was published in October of 2012 and is a novel of love, heartbreak, and hope.
At this point, Colleen is following her bliss. “I’ve made the leap from full-time employment to full-time writing.” Colleen lives in Florida with her husband and three dogs.
“My life now is much different than my previous incarnations in Ohio, Georgia, and Virginia, but it’s exciting, a little scary, and very satisfying.”
Colleen is just beginning to make her presence known in the online writing community. She looks forward to finding her place by taking an active part in blogging and writing reviews, marketing her books, and assisting others as they move forward with shared visions of writing and publishing.
“Writing has always been a part of my life. It is my bliss, my joy, and my passion. Reading a good book is a joy, too. It can take you places close to home and far away.
Take a chance.
Walk down an unfamiliar road.
Dare to explore.
Pick up a book.
Read something new.