Author On the Bookcase: Kate Ledger, author of Remedies

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Author On the Bookcase
Kate Ledger

Kate LedgerI'm thrilled to have Kate Ledger, author of Remedies, writing for On the Bookcase. In Remedies, Simon and Emily seem to have it all -- good jobs, nice house, a healthy thirteen year old daughter. But things are not always as they seem. There are some old scars and wounds that haven't been treated and addressed. Will the "elephant in the room" been the end of this seemingly perfect family. Kate's debut novel reveals marriage, parenthood, loss, grief, and hope. Most importantly, Remedies explores the complicated nature of pain, in the nerves of the body and the longings of the heart. To what lengths would you go to avoid feeling pain? And would you believe in a cure? What topics for book club conversation!

Kate writes about how exploring her own life -- marriage, children -- assisted her in understanding her characters. "Then came a moment in writing—I can still see the page of notes in my hand, the way my pen trembled—when I took stock of what was most important to me in the world. I had a new, fragile, tender recognition of what loss would mean, and I understood Simon’s painful world in a way I hadn’t before."

Welcome, Kate.

The initial idea for Remedies grew out of the medical magazine writing I do for a living. Over the years, I’ve met many doctors and researchers who developed amazing and helpful treatments for patients. Some of those therapies have even defied the current scientific thinking of the time. These people have fascinated me. I’m awed by their vision, not to mention their tenacity. As I pondered the core of a novel, I wondered: what about a doctor who believes he’s discovered a cure for pain?

The idea seemed beautifully complex. You can’t measure pain, like the size of a tumor, to know if a treatment is working. The success of a treatment might very well depend on the relationship between the doctor and the patient. And yet the ability to resolve pain could make such a profound difference in a patient’s life. But this was only a nugget of a story. The burning question, and what really intrigued me, was about character: what kind of person would believe that he was right and that even the textbooks were wrong? What would he be like? How would he think about the world?

I began writing about a doctor, Simon Bear—a passionate man full of ideas and ambitious, hopeful plans—who believes he’s stumbled across a pain cure. I imagined he would be confident in his views of the medical world. I also felt certain he had a devoted, earnest desire to help people. But as Simon’s character began to evolve, I realized that, despite all his confidence and professional success, he was plagued with insecurities. In fact, what came clear was that his desire to cure other people’s pain came from an inability to address his own.

I wasn’t certain for a while about the source of Simon’s emotional pain, until I took a look at my own life. I had begun writing the story when I was still dating the man who would become my husband. Over the course of a few years, as the novel was still taking shape, we had gotten married and had children. The emotional poles of my own life had widened with these new relationships and responsibilities. Then came a moment in writing—I can still see the page of notes in my hand, the way my pen trembled—when I took stock of what was most important to me in the world. I had a new, fragile, tender recognition of what loss would mean, and I understood Simon’s painful world in a way I hadn’t before. Simon Bear has suffered the loss of his first child, many years earlier. He still wonders whether, as a doctor, he was responsible for not having saved his son’s life, but he’s never dared to raise the question. Instead, he and his wife, Emily, a public relations executive, have attempted, as valiantly as they can, to move on. And in some ways, they have. They’ve become professional successes and are the parents of a daughter, who’s now thirteen. The grief, however, is still with them.

Remedies evolved into the story of a marriage, and the journey of recovering from profound loss, as individuals and as a family. Like other married couples, Simon and Emily are aware of each other’s vulnerabilities. They respectfully avoid discussing the past. But the conversation they’ve never had is still simmering under the surface of their everyday interactions. Simon can’t help doing provocative, potentially destructive, things, hoping to prompt the confrontation with Emily that he’s feared for years. Now, he’s discovered what may be a miracle cure for pain, and he’s willing to put his medical practice in jeopardy as he promotes it. Meanwhile, Emily encounters a lover from her past and begins an affair. But this chance meeting offers her a unique opportunity to connect with her past, in particular, to recall what she was like before grief entered her life. Suddenly, she finds the means to look at her marriage, and her role as a mother, entirely anew.

Thanks so much, Kate, for sharing your inspiration and understanding of your characters.

Praise

"An immediately gripping, expertly woven tale of pain and healing. Ledger is a brilliant writer; the book is dazzling, but more importantly, it is moving."—Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author of Barefoot

Find more about Kate!

To what lengths would you go to avoid feeling pain? And would you believe in a cure?

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