Part 2 of an interview with Rachel Linden,
Author of Becoming the Talbot Sisters
In Becoming the Talbot Sisters (Thomas Nelson), author Rachel Linden hopes to bring a greater awareness to issues important to women around the world and encourage them to live what she describes as “every day brave.”
Becoming the Talbot Sisters tells the story of estranged twin sisters who live very different lives on opposite sides of the world but are drawn to rebuild their relationship in support of one another as they face challenges ranging from miscarriages to sexual assault to career woes. The sisters’ stories draw from many aspects of Linden’s own life.
In this second half of her interview, Linden delves deeper into the emotional and relational toils that infertility and miscarriage can have on a marriage.
Q: An author normally works some of herself into her novel. How much of Becoming the Talbot Sisters reflects your own life?
So much of the book reflects my own personal experience! The main themes – women having courage to face infertility and miscarriage as well as sexual exploitation and trafficking – are all very personal for me. I lost my first child to miscarriage, so I identify deeply with that thread of the book. I also worked with a faith-based organization in Europe for seven years, focusing significantly on women who experienced trauma and exploitation, so that theme is one I am very passionate about. The locations in the book are also dear to my heart. I set the book mainly in Budapest where I lived for five years. Parts also take place in Sarajevo and several other fascinating locations around central Europe, all places I enjoy and want to share with readers.
As for the sister-relationship aspect of Becoming the Talbot Sisters, much like Waverly and Charlotte, my sister and I are very different and live geographically far apart. However, we have a harmonious relationship and have grown in friendship more and more as we’ve gotten older unlike the sisters in the book.
Q: Waverly seems to have it all together but can’t have the one thing she desperately wants in the world, a baby, due to struggles with infertility and miscarriages. So many women struggle with the same issues but live in silence. Why is it still so taboo to talk about emotional trauma involved with pregnancy loss?
I think a big part of it is that the grief after pregnancy loss is so deeply personal. It is a unique type of grief, a loss of possibility and potential at the very start of a life. You are mourning the loss of a life and the loss of so many hopes and dreams you had for that child. The loss of a child is a devastating thing, even if it is a baby that had not yet been born.
There can also be a sense of shame associated with losing a baby, a feeling of failure or fault. It is easy to feel you might have done something to cause the loss (although this is highly unlikely) or that there is something wrong with you or your ability to create or carry life. The loss of a pregnancy can elicit a complex and confusing mixture of emotions! That combination makes it hard to talk about and explain to someone who hasn’t had the same experience.
Q: How does infertility impact a marriage, especially when the husband and wife don’t agree on the lengths they want to go through in order to have a child of their own?
Infertility can put incredible strain on a couple’s intimacy. It’s very difficult to not become task-oriented and focus solely on outcomes in the process of trying to become pregnant instead of working on building relationship intimacy. The physical joy and intimacy of the marriage relationship can suffer tremendously over the months and years of waiting, trying, disappointment, and loss.
Infertility can also really drive a wedge between couples emotionally, taking a toll on their ability to enjoy what they have in the present and with each other. Too often couples become fixated on the fact that what they want to happen isn’t happening. It’s even more complicated and difficult if the couple isn’t in agreement about how far they will go to have a child. I greatly admire couples who are able to walk the painful road of infertility with grace and joy, choosing to be thankful for their present lives and keeping their hearts open to alternate ideas of how their family might look in the future. It’s especially inspiring when they are able to do so in unity and use this painful experience to strengthen their bond.
Q: The story addresses the pros and cons of surrogacy. Why is it a subject not often addressed in church circles?
I think surrogacy is just starting to come into our national consciousness as a viable option for couples who cannot have a child by a more traditional method. Only in the last few years have I noticed it starting to get more attention in our society. It’s a concept that goes back to the Old Testament (remember Abraham and Hagar?), but not one that has been present in American or Christian circles in recent history.
Surrogacy is becoming more common, though, and people are starting to consider it more and more as an option if they struggle with infertility. As it becomes more widespread, I think the questions and sticky issues around it will need more attention. It’s a complicated situation with many facets to consider, and I think the story explores some of them in intriguing ways!
Q: How does the fact that the sisters lost their parents at a young age play into Waverly’s desire to be a mom and Charlie’s offer to help her fulfill her dream?
Both sisters want to restore what they lost when their parents died – a sense of home and family. Waverly longs for a baby so she can recreate the warmth of the family she lost at such a tender age. Charlie realizes that she’s built a very lonely, isolated life as an adult and offers to be a surrogate for her sister in the hopes of rebuilding their sisterly bond.
Even though the sisters approach it in different ways, they are both longing for relational connection and intimacy. That’s what they’re trying to regain in their adult lives. Humans are made for connection. We crave it. We need it. However, we are often terrible at knowing how to build and maintain healthy intimacy. The story is really about Waverly and Charlie having the courage to choose relational connection, especially the beautiful connections related to sisterhood and motherhood, and forging those connections in quite unexpected circumstances.
Q: How does faith weave its way into Becoming the Talbot Sisters?
The underlying themes of the book – courage, connection, and hope – are all deeply rooted in my own personal faith. I think the story will appeal to readers of both inspirational and mainstream fiction because the faith elements are subtle but very relevant. The main characters are on a journey toward relational healing, intimacy and joy in every aspect of their lives. The story also really affirms the value of human life, from Charlie’s unborn baby to the central European exploited women, and the historical figure of St. George plays an important part in the overarching theme of women having courage to face life’s big challenges.
Q: The sisters were raised by their Aunt Mae whose motto was, “Whatever the Good Lord puts in your hand you give back to others.” How do characters live out this motto in the story?
The sisters live it out in different ways. Charlie’s offer to be a surrogate for her twin is one example. She says she has two good ovaries she isn’t using, so why shouldn’t she carry a baby for her sister? Later she chooses to stand in solidarity with the trafficked women she rescues, using her position of influence to help those who have been exploited, despite her own past trauma.
Likewise, Waverly uses her clout as TV star to try to help her sister when they become embroiled in a very unexpected and perilous situation. She also opens her mother’s heart in unexpected ways. Both sisters learn as the story progresses what it is they have in their hand and how to give it to others in a positive way.
Q: Courage is a central theme of the story. What does it mean to be “every day brave”?
I hope women walk away from reading Becoming the Talbot Sisters understanding they can courageously face life’s big challenges, choosing to be “every day brave.”
Every day brave is a simple concept but it’s not easy. It means standing with courage against life’s fear and challenges, no matter the circumstances. As women we can face tremendous challenges in our lives, our careers, our family relationships, our roles as wives and mothers, sisters and daughters, matters of the heart, so many areas of life! Being every day brave takes guts, grit and a steadfast hope and optimism!