I’m a jigsaw puzzle addict. Give me a 1000 piece puzzle and I will bury myself in it and barely come up to eat or sleep.
What I love about jigsaw puzzles is the process. You start with a mass of diverse pieces, none of which make sense on their own. With an image as your guide, you put the pieces together one at a time, until gradually, out of the chaos, the picture forms. For those who write novels, you will recognize this process. Writers have glimpses of ideas, characters, phrases and plot and then we work, word by word, sentence by sentence to make them all fit together into a coherent and startling whole.
Completing a puzzle and finishing a book both bring rewards. But this week I realized an important difference between those rewards. So let me tell you a little about the book and then I’ll get back to the puzzles.
I was thrilled with the very first book review for Along Came the Rain. It was written by Thalia Chase (click here to see the full version.) She said that not only did she love the book, but she was sure it would spark a lot of discussion in book reading groups. She couldn’t wait to talk about the novel with other people who’d read it.
And that’s when I realized what books give you that puzzles can’t.
Both puzzles and books provide hours of pleasure as they stimulate the mind. But if a book is good, it provokes a response from the reader; it makes her want to talk about it, and hear what other people have to say.
When I read Thalia’s review, I realized that her reaction was exactly the one I was looking for. Not only do I want people to enjoy my novel, I want them to feel like they need to talk about it. The novel deals with issues that are both thought provoking and controversial. I’m looking forward to some heated discussions about it!
My love of books was fostered by my Mum. She’s also the one who introduced me to the challenge of 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles. Five days after my novel is published, I’ll be visiting Mum at her Alzheimer’s facility. (She lives in my native UK, I live in the USA.) On my last visit, I tried to help her complete a 12 piece child’s puzzle of Noah’s ark, but when it was clear she couldn’t do the puzzle, we put it aside and looked at a picture book instead. This time when I visit, I’ll show her my novel and even though she can still read, I don’t think she’ll remember who Alison R. Solomon is. She knows her daughter as Alison Trenner, the maiden name I gave up almost 35 years ago. I suspect when I show her the book she’ll say, “Who’s Alison Solomon?”
Mum may not know, but I do. I’m the one whose book you’re going to recommend to your friends or book club so you can have a discussion about it. I’m the Puzzled Writer.
(A version of this blog originally appeared on Women and Words.)