Mary Doria Russell was born in suburban Chicago in 1950. Her mother was a Navy nurse and her father was a Marine Corps drill sergeant. She and her younger brother, Richard, consequently developed a dismaying vocabulary at an early age. She learned discretion at Sacred Heart Catholic elementary school; how to diagram sentences at Glenbard East High; cultural anthropology at the University of Illinois; social anthropology at Northeastern University in Boston; and biological anthropology at the University of Michigan.
Mary and Don Russell have been happily married for an unusually high percentage of the years since 1970. Don is a software engineer and one of the founders of AllTech Medical Systems, which designs and manufactures medical imaging equipment for the Chinese domestic market. They have one adult son, Daniel. They live in Cleveland.
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Mary Doria Russell's website
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Mary Doria Russell talks about her extraordinary novel, The Thread of Grace
I am a big fan of your novels. What took so long for a new one?
I've become a dues-paying member of the sandwich generation while writing this book. Like many Baby Boomers, I'm helping elderly and infirm relatives through illnesses and bereavement, just as my teenage son is learning to drive, starting to date, getting his heart broken, applying for summer jobs and college. My own health did a power-dive, and that episode took a two-year chunk out of my life. Thank God, my husband has been healthy all this time, so the household has run fairly smoothly!
Even without all that, A Thread of Grace would have been a bear. None of the characters are American, and the story is set in World War II Italy, so I am not drawing on my own language, culture or personal experiences at all. A dear friend advised me to finesse the issue: "Just have everyone say Ciao a lot and eat pasta!" But WWII is living memory and a topic of lively scholarly interest. There will be plenty of reviewers and readers who'll notice mistakes. And I feel a great responsibility to the people who entrusted their memories and personal ...
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