The Books of Love

Three authors to share readings on mysterious force

By Brian PJ Cronin

Joselin Linder had never thought to write about her family, although her history is compelling. Her father died of a disease caused by a genetic mutation that appears to be so rare it only appears in her family.

That was 10 years ago. Six other relatives had succumbed and Linder and her sister were showing early symptoms. She was working with Harvard researchers to understand it and other genetic diseases.

Yet when a friend suggested she should write about her experience, she was not convinced. “How is that interesting?” she said. “It’s just my life.”

Joselin Linder

Meanwhile, in Ireland, David Hicks was trying to turn years of published short stories into a collection. After hanging a synopsis of each story on the wall to look for connections, he realized those with autobiographical elements could form the arc of a novel.

The challenge was to make it interesting. “I’m a safe, nice guy who tries to do things for others,” he said. “Nobody wants to read that book.”

As it happened, one of his former students, Lauree Ostrofsky, herself the author of a memoir and self-help book, was at the same time contemplating why her friends always ended up dating not-nice guys. “We all have those friends,” she said. “It’s shocking when you realize you’re doing the same thing.” Her forthcoming memoir will address the conflict.

All three authors will gather at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7, at the Oak Vino Wine Bar, 389 Main St., in Beacon, to read from their work in a program called Love Stories.

David Hicks

For Hicks, the breakthrough came when he saw that, although his stories seemed part of a larger, familiar tale (a man leaving New York and his family to move west, then trying to reconnect with his children), there were gaps. He decided to write new stories to fill them, narrated in the first person by other characters. That allowed him to step outside the story of his own life.

“It wasn’t pretty, attractive or reassuring,” said Hicks. “It showed me that the disruption I caused in my life didn’t just affect me, or even just me and my ex-wife and my kids. You see the ripple effect that divorce has.”

Linder’s book takes readers to the cutting edge of genomic medicine as she and her family attempt to understand what is known as Linder’s Disease. Its first symptom is a heart murmur, followed by lymphatic fluid leaking into the lungs, swelling and organ failure. The Family Gene is a personal window into what may be the next scientific revolution: Medicine tailored to our personal genetics.

“We’re almost at the point where they’re going to hand you your baby and your baby’s genome,” Linder says. “How we use that information, how we treat illness, is all about to change.”

Lauree Ostrofsky

At the heart of the book is a touching story of afflicted family members who do all they can to save future generations. As Linder writes of her father, he was fighting for his own life, and hers.

The love that Linder’s family shows for each other, the love that Hicks’ protagonist has for his distant children, and Ostrofsky’s memoir of looking for love in the wrong places is what fit the books together.

“All of our stories are about the many permutations of love in our lives, and how love can be both beautiful and brutal,” Ostrofsky says. “And sometimes it can be both beautiful and brutal with the same people.”

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