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Novel keeps readers on edge

“The Pieces We Keep,” the just-released third novel by Happy Valley author Kristina McMorris, is about love and faith in all forms, and choosing to believe in things that may not come with tangible proof.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Kristina McMorris holds a copy of her new novel, 'The Pieces We Keep,' available now where books are sold.She will discuss her work and sign books at an event at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12, at Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing, 3415 S.W. Cedar Hills Blvd., in Beaverton. McMorris will co-host the book signing with her friend, Sarah Jio, author of “Morning Glory.”

Signed copies of her new book also are available at the Barnes & Noble at Clackamas Town Center. McMorris said this book, like all her other novels, would be suitable for book groups, and she includes discussion questions at the end. She also is available to speak to book groups, she said.

The basic story line of “The Pieces We Keep” revolves around Audra Hughes, a veterinarian in Portland, and her 7-year-old son, Jack. Audra meets Sean Malloy, a U.S. Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan, and together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II.

True events

McMorris has published two other novels, “Letters from Home” and “Bridge of Scarlet Leaves,” but this book came about in an unusual way.

First, she was inspired by three events: a news segment she saw about a young boy suffering from night terrors; the night terrors her own son endured; and a declassified document about Nazi saboteurs in America that a friend shared with her.

“I saw a news segment about a 7-year-old boy with a recurring nightmare that he died in a plane crash in World War II. He shared with his parents obscure, but verifiable historical details that indicated he was a pilot in his last life,” McMorris said.

His parents, at first skeptical, finally came to believe their son, and they even wrote a memoir about the event, called “Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a WW II Fighter Pilot.”

Then McMorris’s older son began suffering from night terrors, and told his mother details about a grandmother who did not exist.

“I’m a writer, so I asked myself ‘What if?’ What, as a mother, can I do with this information?”

And finally, as McMorris read through a declassified document about Nazi saboteurs, she discovered that the story was one of love and tragedy.

McMorris found herself engaging in the widest range of interviews she had ever experienced.

“I interviewed a combat veteran, just back from Afghanistan, a veterinarian, a hypnotherapist with experience in past-life regression, a children’s counselor and a civilian switchboard operator from the 1940s,” she said.

Interwoven stories

At first, McMorris was convinced she had enough material for two books, but her agent convinced her to combine the stories into one novel. That presented a huge challenge: how to write about two different time periods and make it interesting to readers, without jarring them.

So, she embarked on writing the book with dual timelines that alternate with each chapter.

She took a risky approach, she said, by “making a transition from the last sentence in one chapter to the very first sentence in the next chapter.”

As they progress through the book, readers begin to uncover how the two stories, from two different time periods, connect.



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