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.

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Above The Thunder jacket
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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Renée Manfredi but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
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  • Julia Glass

    Julia Glass

    Julia Glass is the author of Three Junes, winner of the 2002 National Book Award for Fiction; The Whole World Over; I See You Everywhere, winner of the 2009 Binghamton University John Gardner Book Award; and The Widower's ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Above The Thunder

    Try:
    Three Junes
    by Julia Glass

  • Elizabeth Graver

    Elizabeth Graver

    Elizabeth Graver is the author of The End of the Point, a novel set in a summer community on Buzzard's Bay from 1942 to 1999. She has also written three other novels: Awake, The Honey Thief, and Unravelling.

    Her short ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Above The Thunder

    Try:
    The End of the Point
    by Elizabeth Graver

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