Friday, May 17, 2013

Sheri Joseph's "Where You Can Find Me"

Sheri Joseph is the author of the novels Where You Can Find Me (Thomas Dunne Books 2013) and Stray (MacAdam/Cage 2007), as well as a cycle of stories, Bear Me Safely Over (Grove/Atlantic 2002). She has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and the Grub Street National Book Prize, among other awards. She lives in Atlanta and teaches in the creative writing program of Georgia State University.

Here Joseph dreamcasts an adaptation of Where You Can Find Me:
This exercise is a challenge for me since I don’t watch a lot of movies or pay much attention to actors. When I’m working on a book, my characters have vivid reality in my mind, but they almost never correspond to a person I’ve seen in life, or on the screen. This new book was an exception for at least one character, Marlene Vincent, the mother of a kidnapped boy, who at a certain point in the draft became cast as Mary-Louise Parker in my head. Marlene is an artist and bartender turned suburban mom: petite, tattooed, and later in the book, quite pretty. At the opening, though, she’s spent three years searching for a missing child; despite the joy of his return, the experience has rendered her haggard, hollow-eyed, brutally hardened. So the make-up artist might have some work to do at the outset. Most of the story takes place after Marlene and her two children escape to the cloud forest of Costa Rica, where she undergoes a rejuvenation that makes Parker a great fit. She has left behind her husband, Jeff, who struggles to adequately reconnect with the son he’d accepted for dead. Greg Kinnear might be good as Jeff. In Costa Rica, Marlene forges a connection with Jeff’s brother, Lowell, a kind of slacker ne’er-do-well sidekick for Marlene who brings out her playful side. I think Mark Ruffalo would be great as Lowell.

Caleb, who is really the central character, this 14-year-old who has spent three years missing… I’m stumped. The story moves to some degree between the two phases of his life: the blond boy called Nicky he was while missing, and the boy who comes home having buzzed his own head back in its natural brown. He balances a lot of personalities, many of them self-created, and he is at pains to disguise a lot of trauma that can’t help but emerge. I’ve always adored young Christian Bale’s performance in Empire of the Sun, so if I could use a time machine to cast Bale about two years after he made that film, I’d be very happy. The younger child, 11-year-old Lark, is studious, adventurous, and kind of a weirdo: maybe  Abigail Breslin when she was younger and less glamorous. Lark has a close relationship with her equally weird grandmother, Hilda, who is working to preserve the cloud forest. I can see Linda Hunt as Hilda. Mireille Enos is a natural for Julianna Brewer, the soulful F.B.I specialist in Crimes Against Children to whom Caleb becomes attached. And Jolly, the doctor arrested for kidnapping and child molestation, to whom Caleb remains to some degree loyal: I’d love to see someone really wholesome and mainstream in the role, like Ben Affleck.
Learn more about the book and author at Sheri Joseph's blog and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Where You Can Find Me.

Writers Read: Sheri Joseph.

--Marshal Zeringue