On its copyright page, my new novel, Love and Other Natural Disasters, features the standard disclaimer. You know the one: this is a work of fiction and any resemblance to actual people is purely coincidental. I know it’s necessary, in these litigious times, but the wording always strikes me as selling fiction a little short. If you’re doing it right, fiction should absolutely resemble actual people, both living and dead. It should remind all of us of us, in at least some small way.
I guess in my case, since I am a therapist and spend my days listening to people’s stories and the novel is about an emotional affair, the disclaimer is even more critical. I can say that while I’ve heard tales of infidelity (emotional and otherwise), Eve and Jonathon are most definitely products of my imagination. They share traits with people I’ve met; they walk the same streets of people I know; but they are wholly themselves and their story is not one I’ve been told. That’s why I make a disclaimer of my own: This novel is not a self-help book. It’s not a guide for how to discover your partner’s emotional affair and/or how to react. I hope that people who’ve experienced an emotional affair (from one side or the other) will see themselves in Eve and Jonathon and that it will bring them some measure of comfort, a sense of being understood, though I know that sometimes we prefer not to recognize ourselves in characters who are in emotional pain. It’s not always the most flattering moment in which to be viewed. But it is a fascinating one, a transformative one, which is why I chose to write this particular story.
And for all readers, including those who haven’t been touched by infidelity: I imagine they could see themselves in Eve and Jonathon, too, and that there’s something instructive in the way the relationship veers off course. I once read a blurb on the front jacket of a book (strangely enough, I can’t recall which book) and it said that people who read that book would love more wisely because of it. I thought at the time that if I could ever write something that had that sort of impact on its readers, there’d be nothing better. So while it’s an awful lot to hope for and maybe it’s an act of hubris to even put it out there, my hope is that Eve and Jonathon’s story can help readers take stock of their own relationships and love just a little more wisely.
Causes Holly Shumas Supports
International Red Cross
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Environmental Defense Fund