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Trouble Cover



Author Q & A

Q: TROUBLE focuses on the bonds between women and the strength of those friendships. Why did you choose to write about these themes now? Was there a personal impetus for the plot or was this something you'd considered writing about for a while?

A: This book came to me when I was down in Mexico City in February of 2006, finishing the final draft of The Great Man. Walking around the city, hanging out in cantinas, hearing music, going to art openings, I was struck by the idea of two long-time middle-aged female friends, both in a lot of trouble in their lives, meeting in Mexico City to offer each other moral support, escape, and a return to their lost, younger selves. I was inspired to write about their friendship because of a very painful misunderstanding I had had with my own best friend, a rift that, once healed, brought to my consciousness the fact that there are no formal codified structures for female friendship, no commitment or breakup ceremonies, no structures in place for intervention during times of crisis, such as friendship therapy. Close female friendship is a relationship that often goes as deep as, or deeper than, marriage or family, but which has no rights or rules. I wanted to write about this in a direct, visceral, emotional way.

Q: Both New York City and Mexico City are main characters in TROUBLE (arguably as much as Josie, Indrani and Raquel). What do both cities represent to the women of the book? And why did you choose Mexico as your setting for Josie and Raquel's escape?

A: In New York, Josie's life is structured in certain ways: she is a wife, a therapist, a mother, a grownup. At the beginning of the novel, she recognizes that she must leave her marriage, which sets in motion a questioning of each of her other roles, to varying effects. Raquel lives in Los Angeles, city of eternal youth, celebrity culture, and life in the public eye. Mexico City is a Catholic, colonial, vast city built on Aztec ruins; it is a place of both elemental ever-present death and wild, untrammeled life. Things happen in Mexico City; both life and death are constant and powerful there. It's a very good place to go to shake something loose, to overcome psychic stasis or paralysis.

Q: You're a writer who can pretty much do anything. Each one of your novels encapsulates such vivid yet contrasting people - a world-renowned painter and the women in his life; a gay man in Manhattan looking for true love; a chain-smoking misanthrope; and a secretary who imbibes too much whiskey. Yet there are underlying themes of redemption and connection in your novels. How do the ideas come into being? Is it important to you to switch gears so completely with each new novel?

A: It isn't something I think much about except in the case of The Great Man, when I deliberately set out to write a third-person novel. Each of my other four novels has begun as the idea of a character, developed into a distinct narrative voice, and unfolded from there; I hear them talking, and then I allow them to start narrating their story through me. Not channeling exactly, more like taking on a persona. And yes, redemption and connection are two themes I seem to keep returning to again and again, maybe because they, or rather the inability to find them and the possibility of eventually emerging into them by undergoing various troubles and experiences, are at the root of so much of storytelling, including satire and dark comedy.

Q: Food and the preparation of meals are integral to your books. Yet food seems to have taken a back seat to music in TROUBLE. Was this a conscious decision? And what's on your iPod?

A: I've definitely been listening to a lot of music, and I've been playing a lot of music with musician friends, as well. But I don't have an iPod; I only like to hear music live or through speakers. Earbuds seem to seal me off from the world and conversation. I'm no Luddite, but I get a little claustrophobic with no air between me and the music I'm listening to.

Q: What are you working on now? Has your writing life changed since THE GREAT MAN won the PEN/Faulkner and became a national bestseller?

A: I'm working on a new novel called The Astral. My life has definitely changed, entirely for the better; I have more opportunities, money, and fun. No joke. That prize was a sheer blessing.

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OneMansView, December 31, 2009 (view all comments by OneMansView)
What trouble?

“Trouble” or “A Fatuous, Vacuous Relationship Guide for the Overly-Educated, the Rich, and the Over-the-Hill Celebrity,” purports to explore how middle-aged lives can crumble and be put back together with minimal effort. Josie, fortyish and a successful, still quite attractive, NYC psychologist, decides while flirting at a gathering that she will immediately end her fifteen-year loveless, stagnate marriage to her college professor husband. To punctuate that, in her new emboldened state, on her way home, she picks up a stranger in a bar for a one-night stand. Simultaneously, her old college roommate Raquel, an aging rock star and sometimes drug addict, is escaping form L.A. to Mexico City from the unflattering publicity of an affair with a man half her age that has gone sour.

Josie’s husband and adopted daughter accept her departure with hard-to-believe calmness, and then she’s off to Mexico to lend moral support to her friend. Most of the book follows Josie and Raquel around Mexico City on the subways and bumpy taxi rides as they meet really cool artists, visit the sites, eat a lot of greasy ethnic food, drink copious amounts of tequila and sangria, come and go at odd hours, attend a bullfight, etc. Of course, there is the obligatory reflecting and agonizing over the past and future. Josie continues her path to self-awakening with an instant attraction to an artist, while Raquel fits the role of the neurotic celebrity who has seen better days.

Given the situations, the book has a feel of superficiality – distanced from reality. In that too-easy vein, when the paparazzi discover Raquel, their pictures are splashed all over the tabloids. Josie’s frozen relationship with her teenage daughter seems to suddenly thaw by her becoming a mini-celebrity. Their Mexican journey has an unfortunate end, but is handled with upper-middle class efficiency, barely stirring an emotion.

The book is an easy, pleasant read and is not without its interests, especially given the author’s obvious knowledge of Mexico City and its culture. However, the characters and their actions don’t seem particularly realistic. Of course, money is no object. Want to buy expensive native art and pay for special shipping to the US? Just do it. The subtitle above sums up the book.
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Product Details

A Novel
Christensen, Kate
Female friendship
Mexico city (mexico)
Middle aged women
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.56 x 5.82 x 1.15 in 1 lb

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 320 pages Doubleday Books - English 9780385527309 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Christensen follows The Great Man with this slightly lesser work, a coming-of-middle-age novel that explores the sexual lives of three women in their 40s. Best friends since their college days, trust-funder Indrani, therapist Josie and L.A. rocker Raquel are like three very different but close sisters. After flirting with a man at a New York party, Josie realizes that she is sexually starving and decides to leave her husband, though Indrani thinks it's a terrible move. Meanwhile, on the left coast, the nearly washed-up ex-junkie Raquel becomes embroiled in a scandal when she's smeared as the other woman to a young actor with a pregnant girlfriend. Raquel hightails it to Mexico City and begs a less than-reluctant Josie to join her. From here the novel takes a predictable route as the women drink their way across the city, Raquel spirals further out of control, and Josie's inner vixen is awakened. The novel loses some of its mojo in the location change — Mexico City seems just out of focus — but the characters are marvelously realized, and when Christensen's on a roll, her wit is irresistible. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Christensen's characters are not evil but they are foolish in ways all too familiar to many of us. If they aren't exactly admirable, they are complex and ultimately likeable. And whatever dingbat shenanigans they get up to, Christensen lights them with generous affection." (read the entire Oregonian review)
"Synopsis" by , A vibrant story of female friendship and midlife sexual awakening from the acclaimed author of The Great Man

Josie is a Manhattan psychotherapist living a comfortable life with her husband and daughter--until, while suddenly flirting with a man at a party, she is struck with the sudden realization that she must leave her passionless marriage. A thrillingly sordid encounter with a stranger she meets at a bar immediately follows. At the same time, her college friend Raquel, a Los Angeles rock star, is being pilloried in the press for sleeping with a much younger man who happens to have a pregnant girlfriend. This proves to be red meat to the gossip hounds of the Internet. The two friends escape to Mexico City for a Christmas holiday of retreat and rediscovery of their essential selves. Sex has gotten these two bright, complicated women into interesting trouble, and the story of their struggles to get out of that trouble is totally gripping at every turn.

A tragicomedy of marriage and friendship, Trouble is a funny, piercing, and moving examination of the battle between the need for connection and the quest for freedom that every modern woman must fight.

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