Today’s post by Yona Zeldis McDonough |
Most of my novels begin with a voice whispering in my ear, telling me a story, urging me to get it down—and to get it right. But You Were Meant for Me began in different way, with an actual incident that happened in New York City: a man found a newborn infant in a subway station and ended up adopting him.
I could not stop thinking about this story. I kept wondering about the infant’s mother, and what might have driven her to an act of such desperation? She did not leave her baby at a police station, hospital or firehouse—all safe havens. No she left him on a subway platform, a decision that could have had so many outcomes—all of them horrendous. And yet, this is not what happened. By sheer chance, dumb luck or, if you believe in such things, divine intervention, that baby was saved. At some point, I realized that I wanted—no, felt compelled—to write it. But because I am a novelist, not a journalist, I made some changes.
In my version, the man becomes a 35-year-old single female editor of an upscale shelter magazine who is not thinking of a baby but whose biological clock is nonetheless ticking loudly. The caramel colored baby she finds in the deserted Coney Island subway station is a girl. From the moment she takes the baby in her arms, she feels an immediate and powerful connection to her. And even after she brings the baby to the police station, she finds she cannot stop thinking about her and her persistent interest leads her to begin adoption proceedings because no one else has stepped forward to claim the child.
I added other characters to the mix: the desperate mother who abandons her child, good-hearted photographer who falls hard for the food editor, and the biological father, a rising young professional who did not know about his daughter but once he learns of her, wants to do the right thing and claim her. And I also added a surprising secret that is revealed late in the novel. Hey, I told you I was a novelist, not a journalist, right? But the essential elements of the story—the abandoned infant, the benevolent stranger, and the improbable new family that is forged by accident and cemented by love—all these things remained true to their source.
Every morning, there is a fresh crop of news stories that can so easily bring us to despair; the world is so often a harsh, unlovely place where everything that can go wrong does. But every once in a rare while there is a story that flies in the face of that despair, a story that reaffirms hope, redemption and yes, even grace. That story came to me by way of a friend’s telling; I grabbed it, and made it my own.