It’s a debut novel.
It’s easy for me to forget that, since it was ten years in the making. But I hope readers don’t forget that. I’ve been writing and publishing short stories for almost twenty years and technical, professional articles and books for forty. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life reading debut novels, especially from women authors. They are far from perfect. I’ve come to appreciate them as much for suggesting where the author is heading or how the author arrived at later works.
It had an auspicious start.
On my first date with the woman I proposed to six months later, I proclaimed “I’m never getting married!” In 2009, while attending The Sewanee Writers Conference, I had told anyone who would listen that I was a short story writer, and not interested in writing a novel. Six months later, I started The Moment Before. So there you go.
I like to think of The Moment Before as a string quartet.
Chamber music isn’t as familiar as orchestral, even to those who appreciate classical music.The Moment Before has four main characters, and I think they interact similarly to musicians playing chamber music (similar to small jazz ensembles too). The quartet analogy is consistent with one of my favorite review quotes on the novel: “The beauty of [The Moment Before] is in its intricate depiction of the coming together of three people to save a fourth.” I’m an amateur musician. I play viola, among other instruments. I can see the two violins and cello coming to rescue me.
It fills a gap in contemporary political-cultural dialogue
The political experience of Americans born here but of Middle Eastern heritage, and all its geopolitical implications, is rarely a theme in American novels. The Moment Before tackles this head on.
It’s a love story!
In the end, The Moment Before is bounded by love, the enduring love between a father and a daughter, the complicated love that emerges between the protagonist Cheryl Halia Haddad (aka Holly Chicago) and the small-town lawyer John Veranda, as well as John’s deep affection for his Illinois hometown, Saluki.
It has a dimension as dark as a black hole.
I didn’t realize this until the very last read through. The one character who emerges NOT betrayed or disillusioned by the institutions/organizations they serve in is Father Moody. Is he “pure evil” as some readers have pointed out, or is he more complicated than that? I’ll leave that judgment up to you.