The devastating conclusion of the February pick, Testimony, revolves around the death of a key character. Author Anita Shreve, understandably, would prefer not to name that character here, to avoid spoiling the ending for those club members who may come across this Q&A without having first read the book. Testimony, readers, however, will know which character is being discussed. —Maura Fritz
Q. Was it exhilarating or challenging to invent so many distinct voices? Why did you decide to construct the story that way rather than take a more straightforward narrative approach?
A. At first, I set out to write the novel solely from the point of view of the headmaster. But then I realized that he couldn’t possibly know everything the reader needed to know. When I conceived the notion of the different voices, it was both liberating and exhilarating.
Q. What I would like to know from Ms. Shreve is, what/who inspired the characters of Owen, Anna, and Silas?
A. Each character is a figment of my imagination. No real people inspired them.
Q. Why did you decide for [character name] to die? The ending was very dramatic and not what I expected in the beginning of the book!
A. I felt it was necessary to convey the very serious notion of reckless behavior and unintended consequences.
Q. My question is, why did this book have to be so hopeless? I don’t like stories that wring you out and leave you to drip-dry. Life is sad enough!
A. Actually, I don’t think the book’s ending is hopeless. Rob’s final segment is meant to be a kind of coda to the novel, one in which he expresses a real kind of hope. He says that his future might be different from the norm, but that he is not afraid of it. One gets the impression that Rob will be a better person for all that has happened.
Q. [Character name] seemed strong. Of course I liked him and didn’t like that he died, but it was surprising because he of all the male characters seemed to be the strongest and have the best sense of self. Why was it important to you that he die?
A. [Character name] does have a strong character, and he is definitely a good guy. That he should suffer so much is a reflection of how good he is and how much he is wronged. Had J.Dot suffered a similar fate, we might not have cared as much.
Q. Do you have a favorite of the books that you have written? I enjoyed Testimony. But my favorite book of yours is The Pilot’s Wife. I can’t imagine my husband being able to pull off a double life. But who knows, maybe he doesn’t go to work every day! Why hasn’t it been made into a movie yet? It would make a fantastic movie.
A. Actually, The Pilot’s Wife was made into a TV movie, starring Christine Lahti and Campbell Scott. I wrote the screenplay. You can easily rent it.