Today’s post by Margaret Hawkins
On the morning of the day our new dog was to be delivered by the rescue people, who promised us a 48-hour window in which to change our minds if we didn’t think we could bond with him, She Reads invited me to write a blog post about an image that inspired something in Lydia’s Party. Of course I thought of Max, the real-life dog that inspired Lydia’s dog, Maxine. I’d been thinking of him constantly since we made this decision, to get a new dog. Can lightning strike twice? Did I even want it to?
Max had been gone four years when we finally agreed it was time. Though there was no replacing him, and there is no perfect time to do this thing, which messes up your house, eats up your money and your time, disturbs your sleep, then ends by breaking your heart. We agreed Fritz would shop around, pick one out at the shelter and just bring it home, because I didn’t care what it looked like or what breed or gender it was, did not want the wrenching responsibility of choosing one over another, and because none of them would ever be Max. Then I walked into PetSmart one Saturday, to buy cat food, and a white German shepherd-mix with huge antenna-like ears, who was there for an “adoption event,” got me in his Max-like gaze, jumped up and put his paws on my chest, licked my face, and claimed me. Nobody even stopped him – it was an ambush.
Now Willem – that’s what we named him – runs the house.
None of the human characters in Lydia’s Party are modeled after particular people, but Lydia’s dog is made in the image of Max. Maxine’s uncanny intelligence, her expressive orange eyebrows, the dedicated way she wills food into her possession, then instantly forgets she’s eaten, the way she lies across people’s feet under the table, confident that morsels will be smuggled below, her mind reading (Max once disappeared from the couch, where he was keeping me company while I guiltily vegetated in front of the television, and returned with my to-do list), her unwavering loyalty, the way snow melts on her warm black fur when she comes in from a romp – all are copied from him.
Max was alive when I started the book. Maxine’s name was Mabel, then. Later I changed it, to keep him around.
Postscript: Willem has eaten two library books so far, both nonfiction, but otherwise is doing quite well and has bonded with Newman, the cat.
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For fans of Anne Tyler and Anna Quindlen, a mesmerizing portrait of friendship that explores seven women’s lives with a generous embrace and wondrous wisdom
Lydia is having a party—it’s a party she hosts every year for six women friends who treasure the midwinter bash. Over a table laden with a feast of food and wine, the women revel in sharing newsy updates, simmering secrets, and laughter. As this particular evening unfolds, Lydia prepares to make a shattering announcement.
As we follow these friends through their party preparations, we meet flawed but lovable characters who are navigating the hassles of daily chores while also meditating in stolen moments on their lives, their regrets, their complicated relationships, and their deepest desires. When Lydia’s announcement shocks them all, they rediscover the enduring bonds of friendship and find their lives changing in unexpected ways.
Tender, wryly funny, and exquisitely written, Lydia’s Party poignantly considers both the challenges of everyday life and of facing our fears while creating characters whose foibles and feistiness will capture readers’ hearts.