Words

Prescriptions in Prose

Take Daily as Needed

Attend

What: Kathryn Trueblood reads from and discusses Take Daily as Needed

When: 4 pm Sun., Nov. 17

Where: Village Books, 1200 11th St.

Info: http://www.villagebooks.com

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

When readers are first introduced to Maeve Beaufort, her 14-month-old daughter Noelle is being rushed to the emergency room in an ambulance after the pine nuts in the pesto she was served for dinner caused her face to swell “like rapidly rising dough.”

By the end of Take Daily as Needed: A Novel in Stories, Noelle is an often-surly 14-year-old who has survived a number of allergic reactions, and many of the characters in Bellingham-based author and Western Washington University English professor Kathryn Trueblood’s book have been through the wringer in terms of both their emotional and physical health.

Told in a series of chapters that read like short stories—and that could for the most part stand alone—readers discover more about the dissolution of Maeve’s marriage, her son Norman’s possible Asperger’s diagnosis, her divorced parents’ decline into old age, and her own battle with chronic pain and Crohn’s disease.

Given the subject matter, one might think Take Daily as Needed is a depressing read. But that’s far from the truth. Maeve, a struggling paralegal living in Washington state who wants to be the best parent she can be while still remaining autonomous, is funny and feisty and not willing to give up on herself or her family.

In a chapter entitled “The No-Tell Hotel”—which won the 2013 Bellevue Literary Review Goldenberg Prize for Fiction before being assimilated into the novel—many emotions are brought to the surface as Maeve shares stories about her 17-year-old son’s troubled friends and the propensity they have to hide out at her house, whether it’s from abusive or sick parents, or just because they know Maeve will accept them as they are.

“I, myself, grew up in a cul-de-sac of dangerous divorcees with just enough alimony not to care whether they were the talk of the carpool or the scandal of the neighborhood,” Maeve says of her childhood in Los Angeles. “They smoked in bed and wrote screenplays for TV or music scores for movies. They kept The Joy of Sex in their underwear drawer and said scary things like, ‘You’ll remember your first time forever, so you want to make it good.’” 

By the time she has an epiphany while cleaning her boyfriend Walter’s toilet in the penultimate chapter, “Anything But That,” readers will come to see that the reason Maeve’s story is compelling is that although it’s messy and sometimes manic, it’s also real.

A glimpse at Trueblood’s bio will reveal that her timeline resembles Maeve’s—including the fact that she has two kids and was herself diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2007. She says the experience of illness has affected her work, and Take Daily as Needed sees her sharing both her struggles and successes with those willing to read between the lines.

Following the reading, stick around as Trueblood talks about the challenges of writing about health issues and healing in a culture that prizes novelty and speed. Some questions she’ll raise include: How do we get through dark times and trials? Do you worry you will depress your readers too much? Shock them by laughing? Stick around for the answers, and lend your voice to the discussion.

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