'Mislaid' Punctures Notions Of Gender And Race

Originally published on May 23, 2015 9:48 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

It's 1965. Peggy Vaillancourt likes women, but has married her professor, Lee Fleming, who is a man who likes men. So though they have something in common, their marriage is quickly unhappy. Peggy takes off with her daughter and dons a new identity. She tells everyone that she and her daughter are African-American and she leaves her son behind. Not exactly a boy meets girl romance now, is it? Nell Zink's new book, "Mislaid," is a satire - biting, daring, sometimes even a little aggravating with characters who can be tough to love or even like.

NELL ZINK: I don't want to live in a world where to get sympathy you have to be, like, a young pretty version of Mother Teresa and maybe be struggling against some limitation imposed from without. All of Peggy's problems she creates for herself. She's one of the white characters; so is Lee. They're privileged. What does it mean to be privileged? It means that you create your own problems - that life becomes a game where you're the one putting stumbling blocks in your own way.

SIMON: Nell Zink talking about her new book, "Mislaid." It's her second novel but her first breakout success, and she's just passed 50, which she thinks is great.

ZINK: I do have the advantage that for all those years I kept writing very seriously - taking my work seriously and really, you know, finishing stories and even a couple novels because it was enough for me to have my friends like it. I don't want to say I'm immune to criticism, but it seems like it doesn't hurt me as badly as it hurts some other first-time authors.

SIMON: The book came out this week. It's called "Mislaid." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.