Though Mindy Tarquini’s debut novel Hindsight has nothing to do with hospitals, it was in a children’s hospital in Philadelphia where she realized her desire to write it. Tarquini was working as an ultrasound technician when she noticed a patient’s mother – who, considering the circumstances, hardly ever smiled – reading Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” and bursting with laughter. She wondered what it would be like to write something so cheerful it could help someone transcend their current circumstances, as grim as they may be, for even a few moments. That thought guided her while writing Hindsight. Tarquini describes her novel as “a layered contemporary fable” about a woman from a tight-knit Italian American family who has the ability to remember all of her past lives and how the lessons learned therein dictate how she lives in the present.
Hindsight, released Tuesday, has already received high praise. Tarquini is originally a native of Philadelphia but now resides in the Valley. She will be hosting her first-ever book signing and reading at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix this evening (Wednesday) at 7 p.m. We chatted with the author about her inspirations for the novel.
What was your inspiration for having a main character who could remember her past lives? Where did the hindsight idea come from?
In Italian culture, when a baby is born with a caul [in which the baby is born with a thin membrane covering its face and body], the person is believed to have a second sight. It’s a very rare that babies are born with a caul. My grandmother was born with a caul. So I wondered, ‘What if a person was born with a caul, but was also breeched?’ And because they were breeched, the caul was on the backside. So, what if that gave the person the ability to see into their past instead of being able to see into the future? Then I thought, ‘If you could see into past lives, would you really apply that knowledge?’ Would you use it to grow and change and live a more meaningful life or would you hide from it?
The character, Eugenia, is a South Philly Italian girl—which I totally know about—and her mother is sort of based on my grandmother. It’s kind of a conglomeration of people I have known over the years.
It’s a deeply personal book. It’s my family, the things I know, the people I remember, those people who inspired me. I meant it like a love letter to them. I started writing some time ago. And in the middle of writing it, some of the people I based the story on passed away. So that changed the story because I became more serious in my outlook. The story deepened and became more layered. So, what had started as a sort of frivolous, fun, romp kind of story became deeper, and deeper and deeper and turned into an upmarket literary piece.
Who would you say Hindsight is for?
The Publisher’s Weekly review called it, “A lively combination of modern women’s fiction and historical urban fantasy.” I got a kick out of it! I’ve had people call it speculative, listed it under metaphysical and visionary or magical realism, but my audience I had in mind, truly, when I was writing it is women who really want to sink their teeth into something and pick it apart, because it is so layered, but would enjoy it all the while. I think it’s smart women’s fiction. It’s meant for women with brains. It really is! I wrote the book for the readers. I just want people to enjoy it.
If you go:
Mindy Tarquini book signing, Hindsight
7 p.m., Wed., Nov. 9
Changing Hands Bookstore
300 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix
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