Author tackles tough topic with ease, grace
Kristina Riggle writes an amazing story in her newest novel, "The Whole Golden World." She skillfully switches points of view between three females: a 40-something mother, a 17-year-old girl and an almost 30-year-old wife, who is trying to get pregnant. The event that pulls these three into each other's lives is horrible and scary for mothers of teens especially. But Riggle was inspired to write this novel straight from the headlines in today's papers, and she deals with the subject of teenage sexuality and abuse with ease and grace.
T.J. Hill, the main man in the story, is a popular, young and cute math teacher at Morgan's high school. Morgan recently broke up with her boyfriend, who thought she was too serious; and he's in the same math class. She also has a scar on her face from a childhood accident, and she's very self-conscious about her looks.
So, when Mr. Hill starts paying extra attention to her, and after school, too, while she waits for her music lessons ... well, you can see where this is going. Morgan starts a secretive and passionate affair with her teacher, who claims to love her.
Besides the obvious problem of a teacher having an affair with a student, he also is married.
Rain is a yoga instructor, full of a troubled past with her family, and wanting more than anything to have a baby of her own. She believes that's what T.J. wants, too. So after trying on their own forever, they go to a fertility specialist. Soon, their lives become consumed with cycles, tests, medications and pregnancy results. T.J., who becomes more despicable as the book goes on, uses this stress to convince Morgan that his wife is cold and mean and doesn't appreciate him.
Dinah, Morgan's mother, wonders, when the truth comes out about Morgan and Mr. Hill, how she didn't know her beautiful daughter was having an affair with a married teacher. But then she has a lot going on herself, including a failing coffee shop, freshman male twins who were born early and spent time in the NICU and still have issues and a marriage that has lost its fire.
Riggle starts the novel with a trial, so immediately, readers know that Mr. Hill gets caught and that someone wants him to pay for what he did to Morgan. This is not a novel of what will happen but a story of how could something like this happen and how does it affect the people involved once the truth comes out. Its structure is perfect with the alternating points of view and the flashbacks to create a novel exploring human behavior and what people will do in the name of love and desperation.
Riggle has written four other novels, including "Things We Didn't Say" and "Keepsake." She also is the co-editor for fiction for the e-zine, "Literary Mama." Her debut novel, "Real Life and Liars," was a Target Breakout pick and a Great Lakes, Great Reads selection by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. She lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her family and has a book club and other information at http://www.kristinariggle.net.
In an interview that Riggle did for this novel, she stated, "I don't give my novels an agenda, other than this: to make my characters understood. You don't have to like them, but I always hope the reader understands them by the end." She accomplished this very thing in "The Whole Golden World."
Margo L. Dill is celebrating the release of her second novel, "Caught Between Two Curses," a young adult novel exploring love, family and the Curse of the Billy Goat on the Cubs. She also is the author of "Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg," a middle grade historical fiction novel. She lives in St. Louis with her family.