Awesome Book Alert: ‘Hand Me Down’ and the Shelter of Fiction

How do you take your life story and craft it into a compelling, interesting novel? It can be challenging to write your story in nonfiction, especially when dealing with issues that would scar most people into silence, or at least willful memory loss. And after the Oprah-James Frey smackdown, the world began paying close attention to every little detail in a memoir, checking for authenticity, for anything that didn’t appear to be true to real life. So you can understand Melanie Thorne’s concern as she wrote Hand Me Down, which chronicles a childhood that started out just fine, but quickly spiraled into a twisted mess of circumstances. Fiction, the first-time novelist noted in an interview, “provides a bit of shelter,” more room to explore a story and craft it as your own, rather than sticking to the confines of what actually happened. “In fiction, I was free to adjust, delete, add, or consolidate in order to serve the greater truths of the story. I had also discovered that fiction, when it’s done well, has the power to tell those truths more cleanly, and often more clearly, than ‘real life.’” Thorne didn’t hesitate to sacrifice the unnecessary details of “what really happened” for the sake of larger emotional truths, to create a narrative from incidents in the life of a young girl.

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