Despite its unfortunate rejection by a list of misguided NYC publishers, Family Plots is getting rave reviews as a darkly comic autobiographical novel about a young mother trying against all odds to create a normal family life with her new husband, a criminal attorney, who–it turns out–is committing a few crimes of his own.
The book offers a wry, unsentimental account of a marriage barreling toward calamity. In an attempt to find romance, family, and financial stability, its struggling heroine stumbles into a world of pseudonyms, fake weddings, and hidden bank accounts. Events that land many of the players in the family cemetery plot also reveal unexpected secrets and stashes that manage, in small ways, to transform a tale of seeming tragedy into one of surprising healing and redemption.
"What would I do if I discovered my husband was leading a double life?" by Mary Patrick Kavanaugh
When this topic was presented to me for this guest post I was immediately relieved because I knew the answer, without even having to make much up. Why? Because I did discover that my husband was leading a double life.
It was 1999, and already life as I knew it was unraveling. My beloved, but somewhat private (secretive?) husband of ten years was away for the weekend at a radical health retreat, hoping to regain strength and stamina to better fight his terminal cancer diagnosis. That weekend while cleaning his closet I stumbled across the key to a file cabinet he had kept locked in his office throughout the entire duration of our marriage. He’d told me he had to keep it locked as he was a criminal attorney and needed to protect the files of his many clients. Though I never had any reason not to believe him, I am a snoop at heart, and harbored an intense curiosity to dig into those files.
When I found the key, I immediately opened the drawer.
I was stunned at what I’d found. It wasn’t evidence from a career of trying criminal cases. It was evidence that would incriminate my husband. When I found myself facing his secrets and stashes, I didn’t know how to proceed. And because he returned home sicker and died shortly after returning, I never had the opportunity to cross-examine him. His death left me not only with a boatload of grief, but with questions, confusion and unexplained cash.
Here I had a mystery and a story. At that point it made sense to transform my life into literature, a natural segue for a writer, and thus started the process of writing Family Plots: Love, Death and Tax Evasion.
The book is a work of Pulp Faction, a term I coined to best describe a fictional story based on fact. It is about a young single mother and private investigator who falls in love with a criminal attorney, who, it turns out, is committing a few crimes of his own. In an effort to find love and security, she falls into a world of pseudonyms and unexplained cash. Secrets and stashes are revealed as family members make their way to the cemetery, for a permanent place in this family plot.
So to answer the question, “What would I do if I discovered my husband was leading a double life?” Because he was dead and couldn’t stop me, what I did was write a book about it.
But what would I do if I discovered the same thing and my husband was alive?
That’s a question I can’t answer.
The book can be purchased at online booksellers, including Amazon.
Mary’s blog can be found at www.CrapIntoCompost.com
Follow Mary on Twitter @marypatrick
“Mary Patrick Kavanaugh tells her story with such unabashed honesty and rapier-sharp humor that she had me hooked from page one. This is one of those ‘you couldn’t make this stuff up’ kind of books that makes you think that’s awful, while you’re laughing out loud at the same time. But beneath the wonderful wit in this dark comedy is a layer of poignancy that takes my breath away. In the end, it’s about all the crazy things we do for love.” —Lolly Winston, New York Times Bestselling Author of Good Grief and Happiness Sold Separately
“…[It] reads like a thriller. I honestly couldn’t stop thinking about it all the time I was reading it, and finally just took the phone off the hook to finish it.” —Adair Lara, author of Hold Me Close, Let Me Go (among others)
“…Family Plots has a great story at its heart: the tension between the longing for security and the longing for excitement, played out in the narrator’s romance in which she increasingly sacrifices steady judgment and middle-class dreams to the power of her attraction toward a man whose charm gives him away as a con man and a dreamer. In a subtle way, this story also makes an argument for a compassionate understanding of human imperfection and of the possibility of healing, in small ways, our sins against one another.” —Catherine Brady, author of Curled in the Bed of Love and The End of Class War
Mary Patrick Kavanaugh started the twenty-first century as an aspiring novelist and regular human being. However, her arduous travels through hope, rejection, resignation, and self-publishing led her to morph into her alter ego: Cemetery Mary. To become fully animated after the transformation, Cemetery Mary endured hundreds of injections of artificial colors, flavors, and Botox, and is very pleased with her youthful appearance as a cartoon character. (Warning: Don’t try this at home.) Currently, Cemetery Mary devotes her time helping herself and others transform life’s crap into compost via her blog, www.crapintocompost.com.
A writer since the age of eight, Mary’s award winning creative non-fiction has been published in Alligator Juniper, Room of One’s Own, San Jose Mercury News, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her professional writing has appeared in numerous trade journals. Mary is the recipient of the nonfiction award from the Soul Making Literary Competition sponsored by the American Pen Women. She was awarded writing fellowships at The David and Julia White Artist Colony, Hedgebrook: Women Authoring Change, and The Vermont Studio Center. She recently launched Family Plots: Love, Death and Tax Evasion, at an outrageous public funeral event. More than anyone might want to know about this spectacle can be learned at www.mydreamisdeadbutimnot.com.
Despite over-the-top, public displays of disappointment over the rejection of her first novel, the author celebrates having one perfect daughter, one happy marriage with a loving (but now dead) husband, one well-adjusted cat that prefers to live with her aunt, a great day job, and a personal life that looks hopeful. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco (2003), a BA in History from San Francisco State University (1988), good teeth, and an excellent credit rating. Mary currently serves as director for group of successful innovators and leaders at the University of California at Irvine, and well as producer of an ever-changing line-up of creative projects and events.
Attention!!! Mary Patrick Kavanaugh (aka Cemetery Mary) is holding a funeral (December 31, 2009) and resurrection (January 2, 2010). These two events will allow others to bury dead dreams, dashed hopes, old habits and grudges in 2009 so they can come to the resurrection to begin again in 2010. Information about the live and webcast events will be posted at www.CrapIntoCompost.com, so readers are invited to sign up for the mail list.