Today I talked to Rebecca D’Harlingue about her novel The Lines Between Us (She Writes Press, 2020).
A widow in 17th century Spain discovers that her beloved niece, Juliana, has suddenly disappeared. Juliana records her forced journey in the diary she received from Tia Ana. Years later, when she feels herself to be nearing the end of her life, she writes to Ana, explains why she fled, and tells her that she is a nun in the new world. Ana’s response provokes Juliana into sharing her life story and demanding that Mercedes, a nun who hasn’t yet taken her vows, leave the convent. The years pass, and Mercedes, near the end of her own life, passes Juliana’s packet to her granddaughter with a demand that the mothers among her descendants keep the secret of this packet from their own daughters, only passing it to one granddaughter in each generation. Three hundred years later and we’re in 20th century America, when a college Spanish professor finds the packet while cleaning out her mother’s closet after her mother’s untimely death. She wonders if the secret is still worth keeping.
Rebecca D’Harlingue was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and never got used to the humidity. Growing up, her mother read every spare moment, and her father often just had to read out loud some new passage from a book he was immersed in. Her high school English teacher inspired her to read on a deeper level, with some unexpected choices like Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, and T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, which fed into D’Harlingue’s enchantment with all things Arthurian. She also loves languages, having studied Spanish, German, Russian, Italian, and even taking an ill-fated stab at Mandarin. She had completed all but her dissertation for a PhD in Spanish language and literature when she had her first child, felt reality strike, and went back to school to get an MBA in health services administration. After working in that field for a number of years, she quit her job to start her novel, but abandoned it, only to pick it up twenty years later, after having taught English as a Second Language to adults for many years. She lives in Oakland, California, with her husband, Arthur. D’Harlingue’s debut novel, The Lines Between Us, won in New Fiction in the 2021 Independent Press Awards, and was a finalist in Best New Fiction in both the 2020 International Book Awards and the 2020 Best Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2020 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards in Historical Fiction.