Reading Along I-94: The Pull of Gravity, Part 3

JEN: Colby and I are so excited that we get to talk to each other again about The Pull of Gravity but even moooore excited this week because Gae Polisner herself is joining us!

COLBY: OMG! I can’t believe Nerdy Winning author, Gae Polisner, is joining us. This is crazy awesome.

JEN: Hi, Gae!

GAE: Ta da!!!! (Too much?)

I’m really excited to be here. I’ve been reading your posts like a fan, then realizing you’re talking about my book… quick funny story. Any time I have to try to do anything to promote my book lately, my mother says, “Did you tell them you won a Nerdy?!” True story.

JEN: That is so cool! Moms are awesome. And Nerdies are awesome. I think it is definitely something you should be proud of. The Pull of Gravity is a great book.

COLBY: I think Gae gave the Nerdies some clout. I love that you bought a shirt. :)

GAE: And a movin’ mug. (I think the Nerdies gave ME some clout! Power to the Nerdies.)
And moms are awesome, Jen.

JEN: I have a Nerdy Book Club sticker that I put on my water bottle. I love it! So far, Colby and I have talked about the relationship Nick has with Scooter and then the relationship he has with Jaycee. I think it’s time we talk about the relationship that Nick has with his dad. I’m actually kind of confused by the dad so I’m excited we get to talk to Gae about this…maybe she can answer some of my questions or wonderings.

GAE: Jen, I hate to say it, but I’m kinda happy you were confused about the dad. In some regard, that’s his purpose in the book. At least in my mind. I’m kind of fascinated as a parent myself about how our kids only see us one way and as one thing. They don’t see us as individuals with our own longings, disappointments and problems. But we are. Hopefully, our parenting rises above… but not always. And I kind of wanted to explore that. And what the impact is. Does that make any sense? The dad is my most complicated character.

JEN: It totally makes sense…but I’m glad you clarified for me. Sometimes I wonder if authors are trying to mess with my head. When I read Laurel Snyder’s Bigger Than a Breadbox I was so appalled by the mother in that book. She is so selfish and she really has enough troubles that she just can’t be there for her kids, especially her daughter. After I had my own kids, my perspective on books totally changed. There are two other books that I think of right away: A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban and The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. Both of those really struck me because the parents are so important in those books, and in The First Part Last, especially, the parent is a young man raising a daughter all on his own. It made me realize how important I am as a parent. I totally love that through books I can experience how a kid feels when their own parent isn’t being the best parent because it helps me grow as a parent.

COLBY: If I lost my job as a teacher, I could totally see myself ending up like Nick’s dad. It would be so hard to lose your identity like he did. I’m not sure if I would gain 100 pounds or lose 100 pounds, but it would not be pretty.

I often have to force myself when I’m reading to think about the intended audience. So often as I read MG and YA I think about the book from the perspective of a 30 year old dude (me), instead of the kid the book was written for. While I was reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio I kept wanting her to tell a section of the book from one of the boy’s parents perspective, but she didn’t. I was sad, but looking back, I don’t think kids needed to see that perspective.

GAE: I love when I’m Skyping with or visiting classes and we talk about the Dad. Inevitably, someone will bring up how mad they are at the dad and then another kid will chime in that he or she was mad, but kind of understood. It’s actually that thought process that I’m hoping to bring to the read… that adults can make bad choices but that doesn’t necessarily make them bad people, and it especially doesn’t affect or change the fact that they’re still trying to do their best as parents. And to some extent, I want that teen reader to consider also taking some responsibility to be mature and listen and understand. Which Nick doesn’t do. And he pays the price by having things unfold in a more difficult way. Yes?

JEN: WAIT! I have to clarify something before we go on…so at the beginning of the book I totally get that his dad is upset and I can forgive him for leaving, especially because he does try to write and communicate with Nick. BUT am I wrong to infer that he’s totally sneaking off to be with Scooter’s mom? Because after that I can only think of him as a really big (use your imagnation). I know people make mistakes but some things are just wrong. I don’t see that as being Nick’s fault…

GAE: First of all, nothing is NIck’s fault, but there is some element of him putting his head in the sand. Second of all, the only thing we completely know is that MaeLynn is alone, dealing with the death of her son, and Nick’s father goes to help her. Whatever else may be going on, one can’t fault the Father for helping her. As for sneaking, we don’t know WHAT Nick’s mom knows, do we? I can tell you this. As a person married for 18 (!!) years, there are lots of things that happen between my husband and I that I would go out of my way not to make my kids privy to. Having said all that, I am not defending the dad for anything with MaeLynn, I am just suggesting that it’s possible you have made some assumptions. And I love that! I love that each reader will make their own assumptions and bring their own ideas and perspectives to their read. But we all have varying views on such things. I know the kids from divorced parents, seem to give Nick’s dad a little more leeway. Coincidence?

COLBY: When I first read the part with Nick’s dad, I totally made all those assumptions. I have to ask: Gae, do you know what really happened with Nick’s dad?

GAE: I love when people ask me that question as if they are real people. :) (yes, I know what I think happened with MaeLynn and Nick’s dad. And, let’s just say, it wouldn’t make Jen happy. And we’d have to keep going back to clean up her language ;))

JEN: I have to remind myself that authors know everything that happened but only want us to know so much. It would have been hard for me as an author to be purposefully vague about the dad’s story. I think that I noticed most about Nick’s relationship with his dad is that it made his good relationships with Scooter and Jaycee and even with his brother stronger. I think he realized that he could trust Jaycee and that his brother would be there even more for him and that he would have them even while dealing with his dad.

GAE: First, I just want to say that it’s so cool to even hear you (and others) angry about the Dad because it means I wrote it well enough to elicit real emotion and that’s ,first and foremost,,what one hopes to be able to do. Secondly, I don’t think that I was trying to be purposefully vague, so much as I didn’t think it much mattered whether the Dad was just emotionally attached (more? in love) with MaeLynn versus having an affair with her or whatever. The issue for me was that, whatever was going on, Nick’s parents marriage was in trouble. That was the only point truly relevant to Nick. Once our parents’ marriages are in trouble, it doesn’t really matter why or how much.

JEN: I guess I thought you were being purposeful in not telling his whole side of the story because as readers we really have to get what Nick sees of the story.

We’ve only just gotten started in discussing Nick’s parents in The Pull of Gravity and we have much more to share on the topic, but we’ll take a break here to let you share your thoughts on the character of Nick’s dad (or you can vent or rant, too). Thanks for joining us, Gae! We look forward to continuing this conversation next week!

One Comment
  1. Can’t we all just have a big fat conference call? I’ve waited to read these conversations til I’ve finished the book, and now I’m finally catching up.

    There are a lot of tie-ins to BREADBOX. Its interesting that Rebecca and Nick both struggle to see what their parents are dealing with. Rebecca in BREADBOX sees the parent issues only from her dad’s POV, while Nick sees neither. I wonder if this is a character flaw on Nick’s part, or indicative of boys in general at that age. He seems rather stunted emotionally. He has no good relationships–parents, friends (The Scoot is the only friend he actually spends time with before Jaycee…other kids are only mentioned as excuses for the Great Rochester Escape), brother. He has turtled on everybody. He lives in a bubble. It’s hard to tell how much of that changes by the end of the book.

    It is aggravating that he is so unresponsive to his dad’s emails–to the point of not even reading them. But couldn’t the dad do more? Would I, as a father, be OK with not getting a response? I would have to call or force contact somehow. Dad continues to show HIS immaturity by limiting his communication to email. He can’t leave the ball totally in Nick’s court. He’s the DAD.

    OK–I can’t stop…

    Though we realize that Nick isn’t mature enough at 15 to deal with things the way he “should”, I don’t want to excuse him too quickly…. Thinking about his friendship with Scooter–Nick abandons him, to a large extent. The Scoot’s ailments and differences make Nick uncomfortable and have social implications as well. I’m reading WONDER right now, and when the story is told from the other kid’s POV–the Scooter/Augustus character– our sympathies change. I’m not quick to excuse Jack Will or Julian for their immaturity towards Augie. Yeah, my 11–or 15–heck, my 37-year-old self–wouldn’t always make the mature decision or respond the appropriate way, but that doesn’t make it OK. I find myself thinking back to ways I sometimes treated others when I was a student. I can’t excuse myself. And if books are realistic, the characters will someday replay their lives at their mental drive-in theater and commit to being better…

    Do authors really know the full lives of their characters? Is it necessary for the writing? Did VonWhat’sHisName know all the characters’ out-of-book lives in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS? It didn’t seem like it. I feel like my students when I get to the end of a book and say, “That’s it??? But what happens next?” I encourage them to deal with and ponder what DID happen–what the author DID tell us–and see what thinking we can do around that. Nick’s dad felt needed and accepted by MaeLynn. That must have been attractive. I’d like to think that Nick’s parents snapped out of their funk. And that MaeLynn wouldn’t want to take a father away from his kids the way The Scoot’s father left. But I also know that adults often make poor decisions.

    Thanks for letting me ramble. Lots of stream-of-consciousness writing going on here. Looking forward to the next installment. Perhaps mentioning OF MICE AND MEN?

    “Gang aft agley”

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