Family life, how one family differs from another, how crazy things can get and how wonderful, all the ins and outs and what-have-you's have been a long fascination for me in my writing. In Blackbird Fly I explored the damaging nature of secrets and the question of searching for who you really are. In my latest, All Your Pretty Dreams, I take a lighter approach, using humor and music to take the reader into a family. Jonny Knobel was the accordion player in his family polka band. He plays his grandfather's old instrument but put it behind him when he left home. Now his family -- who never asks him for anything -- has called him home for the summer to fill in on gigs such as the polka mass. He must learn to love the polka (he'd rather play Springsteen anthems) or be miserable trying. His grandfather has lost all his memories. Is it up to Jonny to remember for him?
The accordion becomes a symbol of family life, the push and pull like the air going in and out. You feel squeezed, tortured by closeness, by demands. You pull away. Then you're needed and it starts again. Life isn't a train ride forward. There are twists and turns, duty and fun, satisfaction and disappointment. We strive to be happy, yet we are our father's sons, our mother's daughters. We can't change who we're born to but we can change who we become. Jonny is a young man on a mission. He realizes he can't be happy letting other people make his choices. He has to learn to stand on his own, clear-eyed and resolute, even while playing the 'She Likes Kielbasa Polka' on his grandfather's squeeze box.