The Country Bookseller in Bozeman, MT was very excited to welcome Pete Fromm back to the Country Bookshelf on June 11th for his new novel, A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do. Bookseller Wendy Blake loved it:
Marnie and Taz have it all– they love, laugh and work together, sneak off to swim at their secret spot, and now they are starting a family. But Marnie dies in childbirth, leaving Taz to cope with his incredible loss… and his new baby daughter. Following Taz’s sometimes bumbling first two years as a father, I found myself laughing and crying on the same page. Pete Fromm writes so beautifully about the confusing mix of grief and love, and what being a family really means.
Wendy Blake: The river scenes first with Marnie and later with Midge are so wonderful! Can you tell us about your favorite rivers and how they wove their way into the book?
Pete Fromm: Some of my favorite rivers? Oh boy. I was a river ranger on the Snake in Grand Teton National Park for six years, floating it nearly every day, so that one’s right up there, and even figured in my last novel, If Not for This. Another season on the Rio Grande, in Big Bend NP. A winter on the Selway. Countless trips on the Blackfoot, Bitterroot, Missouri, Smith, some on the Flatheads, Madison, Yellowstone, Salmon, Wind, Green. Really it gets ridiculous, but rivers have been a huge part of my life, so much so, that when Taz and Marnie found their perfect swimming hole it really became parts of several favorites of mine from Montana, Idaho and even Texas.
WB: Parenting is, of course, the “job” of the title. You are a parent… Is Taz you or is his parenting style different than yours? Also, are Elmo and Rudy also Midge’s “parents” in a way?
PF: No, Taz is not me. You find out pretty quickly that you’re not interesting enough to become your characters. But, I did spend many, many nights without much sleep when our sons were young, so it wasn’t hard to go into those details, or to find ways for Taz to spend time with Midge, wonder on what he should be doing, what he might be doing wrong. Maybe Taz and I both leaned toward the edge of raising feral children.
And of course Elmo becomes very much a parent to Midge, and Rudy too, speaking of feral parenting.
WB: How did Marnie’s dying in childbirth, leaving Taz as the sole parent become a part of the plot? Did someone you know have that experience? Also, tell us about having Marnie’s voice continue in the book, helping Taz even after her death.
PF: This whole story actually began with a student slapping me in the chest with a copy of Glimmer Train magazine, telling me to read “The Hospital,” by Silas Dent Zobal, and then tell him if he was a sap for crying. He wasn’t. A very moving story of a man whose wife dies in childbirth, it ends with the father taking his first step out of the hospital with this new baby. It was the right end for the story, but I thought, Wow, that’s really just the beginning for a much bigger story. So, the next day I started Taz’s story; a semi-employed carpenter walking into the half-demolished fixer upper he and his wife had been renovating, alone with this newborn, no idea how to make one move forward. I thought it would be a story of Taz raising this child alone, but almost immediately his best friend showed up to help, making me realize that he was not alone, that none of us really are. More people showed up, family, friends, and, yes, even his wife, not in any ghostly way, but just Taz still so close to her that he could imagine (hear?) what she would say to him from time to time. It acts as another way to show how he is not really as alone as he thought at the outset.