Renée Manfredi Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Renée Manfredi

Renée Manfredi

An interview with Renée Manfredi

Renée Manfredi explains why she combines humor and tragedy in her first novel and why she thinks it's important to portray characters in novels who experience grief in unconventional ways.

All your characters struggle with loss, yet they all in their own way refuse to surrender to it. Did that come as a surprise to you?
Every fictional character I can think of is defined by loss; there's no novel in which all the characters have plenty of everything. Yet some of the writers I most admire—Jane Austen, Michael Cunningham, Anne-Marie MacDonald—provide hope in equal measure with loss. This is what I wanted for my characters.

Your eleven-year-old heroine is such an independent and captivating girl. Where did Flynn come from?
In the early drafts of the novel, Flynn was a fairly typical child. Because she was so hyper attuned to her environment, though, she began to draw in the other characters' strong emotions, and she became the one who always spoke the truth, even if the truth was more emotional than factual. Her eccentricity emerged in part from her tendency to say what the others were unable or unwilling to express.

Your novel isn't a comic one, yet a few of your scenes are extremely funny. How do humor and tragedy co-exist so comfortably in your writing?
I think humor is a survival strategy. Some of my characters get through tragedy in moments of high comedy: Jack has his moments of giddiness; and Anna turns to an eccentric neighbor when grief becomes too much.

The four main characters constitute one of the most unconventional families in fiction. Is this a subject that has especially interested you?
The theme of family and belonging evolved naturally from the characters. I didn't know when I started the novel that the characters would become so vital to one another.

Do you feel your work explores any subject that doesn't get much attention in fiction?
What may be a departure is having characters that deal with grief, loss and love in unconventional ways. My work may be more sympathetic to spirituality than most contemporary American fiction. In other literary traditions, spirituality, the mystery of what can't be measured or seen, is more of a given–Isabel Allende's House of the Spirits is a case in point. One of the characters in Above the Thunder explores grief, loss, and love by talking to the dead, reviewing other lives, and having visions.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Good Me Bad Me
    Good Me Bad Me
    by Ali Land
    Is a psychopath born or made? This is the terrifying question that author Ali Land explores in her ...
  • Book Jacket: Five-Carat Soul
    Five-Carat Soul
    by James McBride
    In the short story "Sonny's Blues," from the 1965 collection Going to Meet the Man, African-...
  • Book Jacket: This Blessed Earth
    This Blessed Earth
    by Ted Genoways
    For the Hammonds, a farming family in Nebraska, the 2014 harvest season started with a perfect storm...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

An eye-opening and riveting look at how how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Seven Days of Us
    by Francesca Hornak

    A warm, wry debut novel about a family forced to spend a week together over the holidays.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Wisdom of Sundays

The Wisdom of Sundays
by Oprah Winfrey

Life-changing insights from super soul conversations.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A Good M I H T F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.