Award-winning author Susie Finkbeiner has established a loyal following with her imaginative narratives filled with heartwarming plots and stunning imagery. Now this gifted storyteller invites readers to rediscover the healing power of a good tale in her newest novel, Stories That Bind Us.
Betty Sweet is a pleasantly plump forty-year-old, but when this 1960s suburban woman loses her husband unexpectantly, she struggles to find her purpose in life. She can’t imagine what God has in mind when she finds herself the soul caretaker of a five-year-old nephew she never knew she had.
Betty and her nephew make an odd pair. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. As Betty and Hugo struggle through their grief and the difficulties that life can bring, they slowly learn to trust one another as they discover hope and commonality through the magic of storytelling.
Tell us about your new novel, Stories That Bind Us.
This is the story of Betty Sweet, a middle class lady who is finding herself a widow at the age of forty. And it’s the story of Hugo
What was the motivation behind your book?
I suppose the motivation behind this novel is the same as all the others I’ve had the privilege of writing. It’s long been my desire to share stories of hope. This book is about finding hope in the relationships that we have with those we love. It’s about the stories we share, the experiences we enjoy together, that act as the glue to bind our lives of hope together. Your new work spins a tale of two very unlikely characters who come together under heartwrenching times.
How did you come up with these characters?
When I imagined Betty Sweet, I saw the classic pink that was so popular in the early 1960s. I knew she drove a pink Chevy Bel Air and that her hair would be coiffed as beautifully as Jackie Kennedy’s. I could almost hear her cute voice as I wrote. I wanted Betty to be as sweet as her name. I believe she’s become just that. From the very first moment I saw Hugo in my mind, he was a young boy with loose curly hair and brown skin. I was instantly taken by his big brown eyes and long lashes. More than any of that, though, I knew that he would be kind despite the hard childhood he’d already experienced. But what makes them alike is more compelling than what makes them different. They both love Clara— Betty’s sister and Hugo’s mother. They each hold a heart full of grief. And they both turn to stories to find hope.
Storytelling is a major element in your book. Why did you choose to focus on storytelling?
I came up with the idea of writing a novel about storytelling while visiting Belle Isle in Detroit with my husband and kids. All it took was stepping into the aquarium and looking up at the jade-colored ceiling tiles and—whamo!—the idea came to me. I would write a story about a middle-aged woman telling stories to a young boy in order to heal both their hearts and make sense of what’s going on in their lives.
How have stories impacted your own life?
I grew up in a storytelling family. My dad would spin tales for us kids so masterfully that I sometimes didn’t know the difference between the stories that were true, those imagined, or the ones that were a melding of the two. These days my dad is working at writing down all those stories for my kids, which he sends in installments every few months. They love the stories, and so do I.
Those stories—the mythologies of my family—have magic enough to make me feel bound to the past, to my relatives who have been gone for years, to those I never had the pleasure of meeting. They have formed a connection between my dad and me and now the same with my kids.
Your 2019 novel, All Manner of Things, and your new release, Stories That Bind Us, are both set in the 1960s. What draws you to this era?
The 1960s holds so much intrigue for me. Not only is it the music and the style, the history and pop culture. I love the era because it’s the one in which my parents came of age. Spending time writing these novels helped me understand them in ways I hadn’t before. The stories of their teen years created a new kind of bond between us for which I am so grateful.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a novel that centers on what happened at the very end of American involvement in the Vietnam War. It’s a story about loss, new beginnings, and finding out who we truly are. I’m loving this process and these new characters. I can’t wait for my readers to meet the Miller family.
How can readers contact you?
I’m easy to find! Readers can connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and my website www.susiefinkbeiner.com. And, if they’ve got good timing, they might cat
About the Author
Susie Finkbeiner is the CBA bestselling author of All Manner of Things, as well as A Cup of Dust, A Trail of Crumbs, and A Song of Home. She serves on the Fiction Readers Summit planning committee, volunteers her time at Ada Bible Church in
Grand Rapids, Michigan, and speaks at retreats and women’s events across the country. Susie and her husband have three children and live in West Michigan.