As you are probably aware, I’m telling you the story of NEXT BOOK so I can identify all of the problems with it and figure out if the project is worth reworking/rewriting.
SOOOOOOOO we pick up with Ellen having agreed to go with Robin to the world on the other side of his mysterious door, but first she has to take care of a bunch of responsibilities on Earth, like:
- Telling everyone she’s taking a two-week vacation to New Zealand to do the Lord of the Rings tour she was going to do with her college friends (but didn’t end up taking because that was when her mother disappeared)
- Photoshopping herself into LOTR Tour photos and scheduling them to post online while she’s gone
- Hiring a nurse to care for her stepmother while she’s away (her dad provides evening/weekend care but they need someone during the day)
- Making sure her grandmother has everything she needs for the next two weeks
- Seeing Grace perform in Winter’s Tale in Chicago, because Grace rarely does theater close enough to make the trip and Ellen wants to show up for her
So Ellen drives her dad’s car to Chicago with the goal of getting there and back before the POLAR VORTEX kicks in, and she texts Grace to meet her at the stage door but SURPRISE SURPRISE it’s Robin at the door instead.
And he’s brought Ellen a jar of oatmeal, as requested. (Because she can’t eat 90 percent of foods and she wants to make sure she’ll be able to eat in the Other World.)
Except Robin is all “I’ve heard of women having food sensitivities when they’re pregnant,” and Ellen’s like “um I am not pregnant,” and Robin is all “oh, do you not know? We were told that a Hayward descendant was pregnant, congrats,” and Ellen’s “yeah, that’s my sister,” and Robin’s “but you’re the only Everton daughter” and Ellen’s “YEAH SHE CHANGED HER NAME.”
This, by the way, is absolutely devastating for Ellen, because here she was thinking that Robin liked her and now it turns out that he really wanted her sister all along.
And then Ellen realizes she can’t let Robin figure out that Grace is in the building, and there’s some delightful dramatic tension as he starts to put it together and she tries to mislead him but he figures it out anyway and goes backstage and then a stagehand won’t let Ellen follow him and then she sits down to watch the play and send a bunch of texts to her sister saying “DO NOT GO WITH THIS MAN, HE IS BAD NEWS” and then the houselights go down and then the PA does the thing about turning off your cell phones and then a different voice says “Tonight, the role of Perdita will be played by Berenice Ning,” and Ellen is all SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT, GRACE WENT WITH ROBIN.
Because of course she would. It wouldn’t take Grace 30,000 words of agonizing and photoshopping herself into Hobbit holes and asking Robin about his world’s social hierarchies. Grace would UP AND GO.
So Ellen up and leaves the theater, bumping past twelve knees until she gets to the aisle and the door and the car and the highway, and it turns out the polar vortex started early (true story, I checked the weather, also I was there for it the first time) and so she’s driving back to rural Iowa in a storm, and then she drops the car back in her dad’s garage (because he’s going to need it while she’s gone, Ellen is nothing if not thoughtful) and begins biking towards the Banner House, and then the roads get so bad that she has to walk her bike, but she finally gets there, and the doors are locked, so she has to climb up the tree that the docent told her the kids used to get in and out of their second-story bedroom, and really this is the most exciting part of the book, and Ellen finally makes it in and opens the secret door and stands in the secret room and then opens the secret door from the other side and… nothing.
And she does that a few times until she realizes she’s supposed to eat the oatmeal.
And then… WHAM, Ellen can suddenly see another world on top of her world, and she opens the door and walks out into a slightly different version of the Banner House, and as she gets further away from the secret room she sees less of Earth and more of the Other World until she finally walks out of the Other Banner House front door, ready to enter what she thinks is some kind of fantasy fairyland, and…
It’s an absolutely devastated landscape. Cracked asphalt, foundations stripped to their pipes, heat and dust and insects everywhere.
It’s also a very familiar landscape.
“This isn’t fairyland,” Ellen thinks. “It’s Iowa.”
WHICH, BY THE WAY, IS FIELD OF DREAMS.
WHICH I DIDN’T KNOW AT THE TIME BECAUSE THAT MOVIE CAME OUT WHEN I WAS TOO YOUNG TO CARE ABOUT ADULT MEN RECONCILING WITH THEIR ANGEL DADS OVER BASEBALL
BUT THEN I LEARNED ABOUT “IS THIS HEAVEN? NO, IT’S IOWA” BECAUSE I SAW IT ON A T-SHIRT
WHICH MEANS I HAVE TO CHANGE THAT PART TOO
BUT IT’S WORTH NOTING THAT ASIDE FROM THE CREEPY REPRODUCTIVE THING THAT STILL HANGS OVER THIS CHUNK OF THE DRAFT, I DON’T SEE ANY MAJOR PROBLEMS HERE
IT IS WELL PLOTTED AND A LOT OF FUN
But the next section starts to get really really weird and complicated, which I will explain tomorrow in THE FINAL INSTALLMENT of this story. ❤️