West Linn author reflects on life's interconnectedness in new book
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Dede Montgomery knows that unexpected good often comes from dark moments.
In early 2020, prior to the pandemic, Montgomery was reflecting on this pattern as the West Linn community — and the world at large — were hit with disaster and scandal.
These reflections eventually resulted in Montgomery's third published work, "Humanity's Grace."
The book is a collection of 15 short stories about several characters and how a murder links them in Astoria.
"I started thinking about, what if a bad thing happens and who are all the characters that are touched by that?" Montgomery said. "How can they intersect together, maybe never even meeting each other? But how does the intersection of that single event build a story? Or build a number of stories?"
Previously, Montgomery wrote "My Music Man," a memoir reflecting on the loss of her father, and a novel, "Beyond the Ripples," about life's unlikely connections.
"Humanity's Grace" follows some of the characters introduced in "Beyond the Ripples," though Montgomery said it's not necessary to read the novel before starting the new short story collection.
Montgomery knew she wasn't done with some of the characters she had brought to life in "Beyond the Ripples," so she drafted a few ideas for a sequel to the book. Most didn't stick, but one idea became a story in the collection.
Montgomery said writing the collection was harder than writing her memoir or novel because each story must stand on its own with a clear arc yet fit together within the collection. At the end of her second draft, she had 14 stories but felt something was missing.
Montgomery said she had to find the best place for the missing piece of the story while also revising other parts of the book so the final addition would connect with everything else.
Reworking the collection to fit the final story in was fun and challenging — almost like a puzzle, she said
Life's interconnectedness, which was a prominent theme in "Beyond the Ripples," again shows through in "Humanity's Grace."
Montgomery said the book is also about humanity's capacity for kindness.
"We don't always see the things we do as kind. But they can be full of grace and goodwill," she said.
Like her previous works, "Humanity's Grace," and in particular its characters, reflect aspects of Montgomery's own life. She noted one character's love for the ocean, Columbia River and Pacific Graveyard comes from her own father.
After the book has been out for a while, Montgomery expects she will see other similarities to people in her life.
The setting of the stories is also a reflection of Montgomery's life. She said though she never lived in Astoria, she and several generations of family before her regularly traversed the town and its surrounding waters.
Montgomery grew up in Wilsonville and now lives in West Linn. "Humanity's Grace," published by Bedazzled Ink, is available to purchase as an e-book or at several bookstores.
For more information on Montgomery's books and where to purchase them, visit her website (dedemontgomery.com).
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