February 7, 2011

What About Bob?

Mom and I have found it interesting how many people have asked about Bob. Women in particular (and yes, there have been several men who have read and loved this book and I rarely hear these views from them) have intense feelings about Bob, and few are good.

It's very important to remind readers that this story is told from two women's perspectives. I'm sure Bob's version would be very different and highlight information two women would leave out or forget to notice in their own emotional upheaval.

Below you'll see a reader's question followed by Angela's response.

One reader in Colorado recently asked:

I felt a sudden change in how Abby started writing about Bob. First he appeared very non-emotional, detached and disrespectful almost and then all of a sudden he was kind and considerate and more emotionally present. What happened to cause this change?

Answer from Angela: I don't know that there was a conscious effort to change Bob as much as to allow him room to grow. When you meet Gabby and Rose (Bob's parents) there is a hint about Bob's upbringing. Born in the 50's in the south, there was a demarcation between the roles of male and female. A lot of families adhered to a strict dynamic where the man worked away from home and the woman did everything else. Bob's admission that he couldn't even balance the checkbook was a tell-tale sign of his dependency on Abby to take care of the homefront.

As a funny aside... although this book is not a memoir, it is certainly based on some people and events from our lives. To give you an idea of the South and gender roles, I have to tell you a story from my childhood (so the 70's and 80's). Once a year, my family and I would trek to see our grandparents (who, like in the novel, lived across the street from each other, so we saw all our relatives squeezed into one week per year). When it was time for dinner, after hours of cooking by the ladies while the men sat on the porch telling jokes, all the men would file through the dining room filling their plates. Once all the men were through the line, and only then, could the women go through and get food. I, obstinate teenager that I could be, decided this was unfair and went through the line with the men. I did it once and only once thanks to a stern talking-to.

I think it's important to remember in fiction that you are only getting the story the author wants you to get. And, in life, there's no reason to judge people when odds are you just don't understand their upbringing and perspective.

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