Writer To Reader
Guest Post with Patricia Yager Delagrange
First our distinguished reviewer, John Charles, raised the rave flag on Patricia Yager Delagrange’s new contemporary novel, Maddy’s Phoenix. Now readers are posting such glowing comments as “you will love this story,” “beautiful story,” “Grab the tissues and enjoy,” “you feel you wanted to be able to reach out and hug Maddy.”
Reader To Reader decided to reach out to the northern California author and find out how she was able to capture reviewers and readers with her deeply poignant story about a young woman living a hard scrabble life, who risks her freedom to save the life of a trash bin baby.
What Made Maddy's Phoenix Soar?
In December 2016 I read about a woman in her thirties who gave birth to a baby in the women’s bathroom at a Walmart and threw the newborn into a trash can. Four hours later a Walmart employee who was emptying the trash noticed it was heavier than usual and found the infant, who was not breathing. Thankfully it wasn’t too late to resuscitate the baby.
Upon hearing this story, don’t we all ask ourselves, how could anyone throw away a baby? Though I am a mother, I wouldn’t feel less horrified at the idea if I didn’t have my beloved son and daughter.
After I read this story, my mind and my heart couldn’t let it go. I needed to understand, to gain insight into why this had happened, so I began a journey down a path of research into this devastating phenomenon. I learned that, sadly, discarding babies in dumpsters is not an unusual occurrence in the United States. As I read report after report about the discovery of “dumpster babies,” I came to the conclusion that all these women doing the abandoning were not mentally ill. Many were incapable of love, of caring for these helpless infants. That single, solitary belief is the reason I wrote Maddy’s Phoenix.
I asked myself what I would do if I discovered a baby who had literally been thrown away into a garbage bin like a piece of trash. Would I take the baby to the police? To the fire station? If not, why wouldn’t I? And if I didn’t, what would I do? Then I imagined as a young woman I had just miscarried not once but a second time. Would that impact my thinking? Would I return that child to the woman who had abandoned her? That sounded like a very bad idea. I figured the likelihood of the child having a happy life with her mom was improbable if not impossible. And from some of the sad stories I read about what can happen to children in the foster care system, I didn’t want to risk those things to my found child.
I wrote this book because I wanted readers to think, really think, about what they would do if they were in Maddy’s place. She had just buried her second child. She's a good person, a hard worker, a kind friend. She’s been dealt a lousy hand in life, time after time, but she has so much love to give. And she finds a discarded infant underneath a half-eaten corn cob on a piece of lettuce. She knows she can give this child all the care and kindness the baby deserves. Maddy’s heart, a heart that’s been broken after she carried two babies who died, is bursting with love. And she decides to give that love to the infant she finds in the dumpster.
Is that wrong? Should that be considered an act warranting prison time? Is that neglect? Is Maddy’s decision a bad one? Given Maddy’s history, I understood why she would wrap that child in her sweater, jump on her bicycle, and ride like the wind all the way to the modest little cabin in the woods where she lives. But then what?
I read books because I want to feel something when I’m reading—perhaps joy, maybe sadness, even anger. I write books for the same reason—to convey emotion that validates us as caring human beings. It made me angry to write about the woman discarding her infant. I didn’t think that child deserved to be treated like a piece of trash. And I didn’t think the mother deserved to have the baby returned to her. When Maddy discovered the baby, I knew the infant would be cared for and loved, and that made me happy. Subsequently, Maddy has to live with the consequences of her decision, her fear of discovery, but she makes the only decision she can make—the only one I could let her make.
My books revolve around situations in which I hope the reader would make the same hard choices my characters make. My stories deal with infidelity, open adoption, a mother kidnapping her own child. And the book I’m currently creating in my head is about assisted suicide. I hope you’ll give them all a chance, but I hope your first choice is Maddy’s Phoenix. It is the book of my heart.
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Fascinated by broken-hearted couples and atypical families, Patricia weaves engaging tales of men and women who create cohesive families where love reigns supreme. She sprinkles her books with intriguing characters who struggle to find balance in life after tragedy. Whether an unwed teenager, desperate widow, abandoned father, a couple who stray from their marital vows, or a struggling young woman who rescues a trash bin baby, her characters form relationships impacted by their desire to create a family.
Patricia lives with her husband and two children in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, along with two very large chocolate labs named Annabella and Jack, and a rescue terrier mix, Shay Dog. Oh, and she also takes care of her daughter's guinea pig, Lucifer. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, Patricia enjoys riding her Friesian horse Maximus, who lives in the Oakland hills with a million dollar view.
Please visit: PatriciaYagerDelagrance.com
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