Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Midlife Love

My new novel Happy Any Day Now deals with a lead character approaching her fiftieth birthday who gets caught up in—among family twists and career turns—the complexities of middle aged love. And in Judith Soo Jin Raphael’s case, that’s a problem X 2.

Guest blogger Yona Zeldis
My Favorite Midlife Crisis (Yet)—my preceding novel—showcases a trio of bright and sassy women who find themselves single and ready for adventures in their fifties. But I’m far from the only author exploring the interesting topic of love seasoned by experience, sometimes soured by heartache, but always leavened with hope. Yona Zeldis McDonough is a talented practitioner of telling tales (30 or so years) out of school. She’s my guest blogger this week and she’s going to chat about her most recent novel, Two of a Kind (out today!) and the promise and perils of that midlife miracle called “love.”  —Toby 

Here’s Yona:
Yona's latest novel Two of a Kind is 
out today.
Young lovers approach each other with open and unencumbered arms; there are no strings, no baggage, no complicated back stories with which to contend. But middle-aged lovers approach each other with a truckload of emotional freight. If young love is a tabula rasa, then middle-aged love is a blackboard covered entirely in chalk. And it was middle-aged love that I set out to explore in my new novel, Two of a Kind.

My two protagonists, Dr. Andy Stern and interior designer Christina Connelly, are in their forties when they meet at a wedding. They take an instant and immediate dislike to one another: she thinks he’s boorish and brash; he finds her frosty and aloof. But because he needs his apartment redone and has heard rave reviews of her work, and she needs the money, these two mismatched individuals find themselves getting to know each other better—and then falling in love. 

It turns out that falling in love is the easy part; it’s staying in love that’s tough. There are differences in religion (he’s Jewish, she’s a lapsed Catholic) and differences in style (he’s loud, bossy and opinionated; she’s reserved and reflective). They each have experienced the death of a spouse—hers in a fire, his from ovarian cancer—and continue to compare each other to the partners they loved and lost. They have kids who have to be incorporated into whatever unit they try to build for themselves, and those kids certainly aren’t making things any easier. And Andy has the archetypal Jewish mother whose reaction to this union is less than ecstatic. 

But Andy and Christina persevere and it is the unfolding of their relationship, the push and pull of intimacy and fear, attraction and avoidance that became my focus in this novel. I had never charted a middle-aged relationship with all its fits and starts before, and I found I liked the process, perhaps because it dovetailed with the middle-age moment in my own life. While I am happily married and relieved that I don’t have to deal with the dating scene, I could really imagine the difficulties that would face me if I did. 

Maybe because I am middle-aged, I sympathized and empathized with my characters, both their desire for connection but also their fear of being wounded. And the events that help them overcome the fear were as surprising to me as they were to them. It was wonderful to find out that even middle-aged lovers—and writers—are still capable of being surprised now and then. 

Read more about Yona and her new book at: http://www.yonazeldismcdonough.com/