This is a big week for Sarah, and I’m thrilled for her. Sarah is funny, smart, talented, and she’s someone I consider to be a valued friend. I met Sarah last year via social media and we immediately clicked. To converse with her or read her books is to know that she has a sensitivity about the human heart and its frailties. Sarah’s love of story runs deep, as does her attention to detail.
You’ve most likely heard the buzz about her much-anticipated new novel, The Baker’s Daughter, which was just released. Already garnering praise from early readers and reviewers, it’s a book that’s sure to spark many discussions and be a book club favorite. I can’t encourage you enough to run out and buy a copy!
In celebration of her new novel, I invited Sarah to be my guest on Brava today. I’m so glad she accepted. So, without further delay, here’s Sarah.
Who is that Man in the Moon?
by Sarah McCoy
I’m imagining us cozied up on a purple velvet sofa in your living room cradling cups of tea. Thanks for having me over to chat, Beth.
My second novel, The Baker’s Daughter, is anchored by strong female characters and their relationships to one another—mothers to daughters, sisters, girlfriends. All of which are vitally important to the story; however, I thought I’d take a moment to highlight a couple of the men in my book. Specifically, the fathers. Although they don’t take center stage, both of my protagonists, Reba and Elsie, are deeply affected by their fathers, and both of their fathers are profoundly transformed by war.
My relationship with my dad differs from my characters in that I was blessed to have a father who worked hard to develop a relationship with me. He’s the firstborn of three boys, and I’m his only daughter. In addition, he went to college at West Point Military Academy and spent thirty years as an Army Ranger. (Talk about a preponderance of testosterone.) But growing up, he wasn’t the least bit standoffish. He rolled my frilly socks to the perfect cuff, told me my hair smelled delicious after washing it in Strawberry Shortcake shampoo, sat front and center at ballet recitals, clarinet performances, cheerleading competitions and yes, book readings. That’s how I know him. But from a very young age, I also understood that his life was partitioned. He was my dad, and he was a soldier. That might not sound outlandish but when you stop to think about those two occupations, they’re polar opposites. One is a nurturer, the other…
My dad deployed to Desert Storm in 1990. He returned when the war ended and I remember asking my mom, “Did Daddy have to kill anyone?” She said no, and I believed her because that was what I wanted to hear. The question had worried me for months and I expected an answer to quell it. I never asked my dad directly. I didn’t want to possibly hear something else, which would make my mom a liar and my dad a killer. On their own, those labels are slanderous, yet when applied to wartime, they gain something akin to honor. The noble lie. The noble kill. Whatever the truth might’ve been, my mom was protecting me, loving me, with her response. My dad was protecting and loving us too when he strapped on a gun, got in a tank, and took to the sands of Kuwait bound by honor, duty, and country. To this day, he doesn’t talk much about his time served in Desert Storm or in the Iraq War.
When my husband and I moved west to El Paso, my parents unloaded all of their storage boxes marked “Sarah” for me to take along: ancient baby dolls and New Kids on The Block T-shirts, dried roses from high school homecomings and pictures from Hawaii to Germany—childhood mementos. Amid the odds and ends, I found a cassette with my dad’s handwriting on the side: To Sarah. Since tapes have gone the way of LPs, my car had the only player we still own. I put it in and prayed the magnetic thread and spools had held up after all the years.
“Hey, girl. Daddy’s sitting here washing his stuff out. There are a lot of sandstorms over here, but it’s clear out tonight. You can see the man in the moon.” In the background was the splish-splash of a tub. “Your mom says you’ve been a big help to her. She’s got her hands full with your brothers and work, ya’know. You just keep on giving her hugs. Would you mind doing that for me? Now I got to get to bed. We’re going out on patrol early tomorrow. Pray for me, baby girl. Sweet dreams.”
Then the tape clicked off and clicked back on with another day’s greeting.
Listening as an adult, I heard the tired pinch in his voice, the singsong of a brave front, the attempt to convince me that everything was hunky-dory— to convince himself too. I could ask him what happened over there but I won’t. Not because I’m scared of the answer but because it’s past. That period of history does not define my dad. He was part of it and so it’s indelibly a part of him. But that’s only a fraction of his life. A small part of the greater whole.
I’m not naïve. I understand that war is monstrous. That wicked men do terrible things, and men with good hearts do difficult things. I know that right and wrong get muddled by beliefs, loyalty and love, and that the righteous path of yesterday looks misguided at best today. We’re only human. We all have dark sides to our moons. The question then becomes, can love redeem?
I believe so. There’s really no alternative.
Please visit Sarah’s website HERE.