I never met my Aunt Lillian.
My name is Lillian Dove. I am five years sober.
She was my father’s second sister. He had estranged himself from her for most of her adult life. In fact, I barely heard her name mentioned around our house. And after her death, her name came in whispers.
When looking through family photographs, I asked my older sister who I took after. “Why, Aunt Lillian.” The name came as a shock. “You don’t look like her, but you have her personality. She was fun. She was my favorite aunt.” Older by a number of years, my sister could remember Lillian. She’d met her. They’d shared the same space. I wished I had known her. Aunt Lillian was an alcoholic, I was told. She’d been married more than once. She “got around.” All descriptions reasoned why my father estranged himself. Yet, who was she? Fun? Was she so bad my father never wanted to see her? Or did he think he should stay away– yes, there was tough love way back when, redefined from a less-loving term, shame.
Five long years, yet the clink of ice in a glass still sets me on edge.
There is no graduation from alcoholism. Or life, for that matter. I am also addicted to Pepsi, chocolate, men, being afraid, being afraid of not being afraid, men—again–and my independence, co-dependence and unsettling ability to fail no matter my attempt. There are other compulsions and bad habits, but I can’t think of them right now. Memory loss, see? And I obsess on how much I forget, if I remember. Giving up alcohol turned out to be easier than changing some of my other behaviors.
My family roots grow deep in Iowa. Ancestors first arrived in the 1860’s. It’s where my sister made her home, along with many nieces, nephews and cousins. It is a state rich in atmosphere: struggle, agriculture, extremes in weather, survival, kinship, and humanity. I have always set much of my work there. With the thought of tackling a mystery series, Lillian came to me.
But, I didn’t want to write another alcoholic-protagonist struggling to stay sober. Instead, I took my aunt’s name, the image I have of her in my mind’s eye, and like Mormons believe someone can still be saved after they are dead, I gave my Aunt Lillian recovery. The question I asked: “What would her life be like after the lack of a stimulant to soften the edges?”
Admit to Mayhem is the first book of a series where Lillian Dove meets life head-on with all its twists and turns and foibles. She is easily moved raw by events. Curious for answers. She strives to care for her mother who lived in denial of an alcoholic husband, and who Lillian felt abandoned her children. Lillian blames her for her own weaknesses.
Lillian is sarcastic, contrary, stubborn, kind, good, and strives to be better. She is really very little different than any of us. She is “everyman” struggling to maintain a balance.
Suppose There Was a Crime, second book in the series, will be out this year.
D. J. Adamson is an award-winning author. Her family roots grow deep in the Midwest and it is here she sets much of her work. She juggles her time between her own desk and teaching writing to others at two Los Angeles area colleges. Along with her husband and two Welsh Terriers, she makes her home in Southern California.
Her latest book is the mystery, amateur sleuth, Admit to Mayhem.
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