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Mystical Rose by Richard Scrimger
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Mystical Rose

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Mystical Rose by Richard Scrimger
Nov 02, 2011 | ISBN 9780385674874

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  • Nov 02, 2011 | ISBN 9780385674874

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“Everyone knows dementia is not funny. Except — in Scrimger’s deft hands, the humour always has an edge of tenderness and warmth… The prayer he writes for Rose might help readers understand why Mystical Rose should be on everybody’s reading list… I don’t know if God is listening, but Scrimger is. He’s a listener, a writer, a tale-teller, a songster, a humourist and a writer whose every book, it seems, will open for readers new ways of seeing and hearing.”—The Globe and Mail

“Scrimger’s lean, vivid prose sweeps the reader away…. Rose’s story unfolds with such delicate measure, such intuitive ease, that it casts a spell the reader will be reluctant to break. The lucid, vivid memories are threaded with fragmented contemporary confusion, as Alzheimer’s exerts an ever-greater control… The life of Rose Rolyoke becomes a world unto itself, a world into which the reader is privileged to be invited. Mystical Rose is a book of true beauty and grace, delicately balanced and nuanced.”—Quill & Quire

“Scrimger’s prose is elegant, understated, well-crafted; he handles the drifting mind of his heroine with a subtle mastery…”—The Toronto Star

“The strength of Mystical Rose comes from its tender evocation of the daily indignities, pathos (and bursts of comedy) of failing health; from its incomplete but still enticing depiction of the strained bond between mother and daughter.”—The National Post

“Especially effective is his portrayal of Rose’s life on the domestic staff of the Rolyokes, with its old-world, time-in-a-bottle quality… Scrimger’s convincing first-person account lends the story immediacy and draws the reader in.”—The Hamilton Spectator

“Scrimger [has] a clear eye, and original voice, and tight, punchy Hemingway-esque sentences, as well as a quirky, ironic humour.”—The Globe and Mail on Crosstown

Author Q&A

1) Can you tell us how you became a writer?

Writing isn’t a career you seek out; it finds you. I have "stories" (in the broadest sense) that I want to tell. If I were an artist or musician, these stories might come out in pictures or songs, but I never liked drawing or practising my piano. My stories come out in words. No one had to remind me to practise my reading.

2) What inspired you to write this particular book? Is there a story about the writing of this novel that begs to be told?

Sometimes an idea floats gently into my head; sometimes it falls with a thump. What happened is that I was writing another book and the entire first section of Mystical Rose dropped into my head. When I looked up from the keyboard I’d written 2000 words and the main character was part of my life.

3) What is it that you’re exploring in this book?

I write for children and for adults; and, while the techniques are different, the themes are very consistent. I am, in short, always writing the same kind of book. A search for meaning, for truth, for connection. I am interested in what happened to make us who we are, in why it happened, in what might have happened to make us different.

4) Who is your favourite character in this book, and why?

Poor Rose, poor funny dementing life-loving Rose, is the strongest character, and the one with whom I have most in common. I confess to a sneaking sympathy for Uncle Brian, who shoots his brother, thinking he’s a moose.

5) Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of your book?

Rose is reviewing the various stages of her life as she is leaving it. I put the book together like a mosaic picture: a tile from her youth, then one from middle age, then one from childhood, then one from the day before yesterday. As more tiles are laid, the picture becomes clearer.

Bear in mind that the working title of the book is What Would Have Happened.

6) Do you have a favourite story to tell about being interviewed about your book?

A well-known radio personality asked me to describe my marriage. "I want to know what things are like," I said. "My wife wants to know what things are. Neither of us can make pie crust." The silence stretched and stretched — and then I asked the radio personality if he was married. We cut to commercial.

7) What question are you never asked in interviews but wish you were?

Why have all your books sold so remarkably well?
How did you feel when the Nobel Committee called?
Nice to meet you, too, Mr Pitt — but isn’t this interview with Richard Scrimger?

8) Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?

A review of my first novel, Crosstown, commented on the protagonist’s "lethal passivity" — a phrase that opened a door in him I hadn’t seen before. And the "mystical aspect " of one of my children’s novels so affected a reviewer that she asked me to preach a sermon at her church. Of course I agreed, but inside I was thinking, "What mystical aspect?"

9) Which authors have been most influential to your own writing?

The authors I like make me laugh and think at the same time. Raymond Chandler comes to mind, and Kipling, and Anthony Powell. I am dazzled at Dickens’ ability to write a great book filled with flaws. Austen is more re-readable than anyone else I know.

10) If you weren’t writing, what would you want to be doing for a living? What are some of your other passions in life?

I suppose my fantasy career would involve music and the theater. I’m a lousy actor, but I love to perform. Apart from that … gee, I don’t know. Is there a career in playing crazy eights with your kids? In reading and eating?

I tell you one thing for sure: it wouldn’t have anything to do with laundry.

11) If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?

This question is begging for a smartypants answer — unlike some of the other questions, which got smartypants answers whether they wanted them or not. I’ll say Zane Grey’s Thunder Mountain and Ian Rankin’s Dead Souls, because they’re what I’m reading right now.

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