Worry is Jessica Westhead's new novel, a compelling and unsettling story about threats real and imagined—and where one draws the line. Kim Fu calls it "an irresistible novel from its first pages to its devastating end."
In this recommended reading list, Westhead names titles that informed her work as she conceived and developed her novel.
In Lands and Forests, a superbly stark and brooding short-story collection by Andrew Forbes, the wilderness is a constant presence. It offers hope to the disillusioned, broken men and women who populate Forbes’ bleak and beautiful stories, and fills them with reverence, peace and awe. But it can just as easily fill them with unease and dread. In Worry, the lake and forest (ha, see what I did there?) is a constant presence as well, offering my characters the promise of a fun, carefree vacation and a welcome break from rules and responsibilities, but also awakening long-dormant grief and fear in Ruth, my main character. Lands and Forests is also adorned with some of the most ravishing cover art (designed by M …
Great Aunt Margaret whispered it to me once on a summer afternoon in her apartment. She was in her early nineties by then, and had been more of a grandma to us than our “real” ones. She and Uncle Milo always hugged us, told us they loved us, kept toys at their home for us to play with, cooked turkeys, baked persimmon pudding.
“You know,” she says sipping her tea, “we tried. We tried for years,” she shrugs, “But doctors didn’t know all the stuff they do now.”
I can barely pull my eyes up to make contact with hers. I always wanted to know why she didn’t have kids, given her joy at spending time with us and with the neighborhood kids. I’d asked around the family but nobody seemed to know. Nobody had ever talked about it with her.
“Of course the problems must’ve been from his side of the family, not ours” she chuckles and I see the familiar twinkle in her eyes return.
Her confession came a decade before I hit the fertility market, but her soft words stuck with me. I was sad for my Great Aunt Margaret who had been so generous to her (grand) nephews and nieces, but couldn’t have a baby, and hadn’t adopted. I was sad that it was such a secret, something others gossiped about.
I came to understand just how profoundly silence can shape the …