IF MY BOOK: The Saddest Girl on the Beach, Heather Frese

Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors compare their recently released books to weird things. This week Heather Frese writes about The Saddest Girl on the Beach, her new novel out now from Blair.

If The Saddest Girl on the Beach were a pair of sunglasses, it’d be the Holly Golightly sort, all bittersweet cat-eye and tortoiseshell, good for keeping the sun and other people out, better for keeping its own feelings hidden away. 

If my book were an appetizer, it would be a cup of clam chowder, Hatteras style, the broth salty and clear, the clams abundant and rich. The ceramic would heat your hands as you grasp it, warming you from the inside out against the biting winds of the cold world. 

If Saddest Girl were a lost thing, it would be a locket, a keepsake, a family heirloom thick with curls of filigree, heavy in your palm, burnished from the touch of generations of hands, their DNA spiraled into your own. Every time you’d reach for it in the space where it should be, your heart would break all over again. 

If my book were a friendship bracelet, it’d be made from interwoven strands of colorful embroidery floss, one set with subdued blues and deep, rich, honey-toned yellows, the other set bright with near-fluorescent oranges, corals, and pinks. Despite their differences, the two sets of strands are complementary and somehow, set together, each makes the other’s colors vibrate with energy.

If my book were a coastal ecology concept, it would be the swash zone. My book would inhabit the swash’s in-between, neither the upper beach nor the surf, but caught somewhere in the middle. If my book were to look up to the sky and choose a celestial body, it’d choose a nebula, solely for the way “nebula” sounds. 

If The Saddest Girl on the Beach were an illicit love affair, it would be the good kind, not too too illicit, but illicit enough to raise some eyebrows. My book would go there, despite, or maybe because of, the illicitness. 

If my book were a cocktail, it’d be a Dark ‘n’ Stormy sitting on a low, rectangular coffee surrounded by books, maps, and an old-fashioned green desk lamp, its hood dimming the brightness, casting a shadow into the evening; it’d be a cocktail inviting feet on the table, inviting introspection, inviting a dip into the story of what makes us who we are; it’d be a cocktail made of layers, the dark rum’s ominous-hued storm cloud over-layering the bright, sparkling ginger beer, obscuring its light with a bruised somberness, until, finally, you give it a shake and a swirl, and the layers settle, combining into something new, something both dark and light, something forever changed but somehow more itself. My book would invite you to stay and contemplate just a little bit longer before you finally realize that you’re ready to go home. 

Heather Frese’s debut novel, The Baddest Girl on the Planet, won the Lee Smith Novel Prize, was longlisted for The Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and was named one of the Women’s National Book Association’s Great Group Reads of 2021. She attended Ohio University for her M.A. followed by an M.F.A. in fiction from West Virginia University. A freelance writer, Heather worked with Outer Banks publications as well as publishing short fiction, essays, poetry, and interviews in various literary journals, including Michigan Quarterly Review, the Los Angeles ReviewFront Porch, the Barely South ReviewSwitchback, and elsewhere. Coastal North Carolina is her longtime love and source of inspiration, her writing deeply influenced by the wild magic and history of the Outer Banks. She currently writes, edits, and teaches in Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter @heatherkfrese.

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