Michael Glab, a sweet bear of a guy who everybody calls Big Mike, is a writer and editor who works parttime at one of my favorite places in Bloomington, the Book Corner. In one of my many lost afternoons wandering through the bookstore's aisles, I told Mike about the upcoming release of Juniper, and he invited Kelley and I onto his show down at WFHB community radio to talk about our story. Kelley couldn't make it that day, so I went solo and tried to speak for both of us -- a risky proposition, if you know Kelley.
Here's an edited version of the interview. Mike says he'll be posting the whole thing soon. Gotta say, he has one of the best radio voices I've ever heard.
Once the tape stopped rolling, Mike confessed that he had been leery of actually wading into Juniper because he'd worried that it would read like a Lifetime movie. I couldn't help laughing. Anyone who knows me and Kelley will tell you that our story's about as far from the Lifetime Channel as two people can get. But I realized that if Big Mike had this suspicion, then maybe others will wonder the same thing. I could see a sticky plot outline already dripping syrup in their heads. Blissful couple with blissfully perfect lives witnesses the power of miracles standing beside the incubator holding their one-pound baby. Yikes. I wouldn't read that book, either.
So let me set the record straight. Juniper ain't no gauzy fairy tale. It would never make it onto Lifetime, unless their execs suddenly wanted Scorsese's take on American marriage. In the opening sections of the book Kelley and I talk openly about the fucked-up history of our relationship. We share our insecurities and our flaws and failings, especially mine, which were numerous. When the book opens, I am such a conflicted mess. I can say -- without fear of contradiction -- that I start out as the story's villain. In the first few pages, Kelley deploys the word "asshole" in my direction. She shares a dream where she envisioned purposely running me over with her Dodge Durango, then backing up over my broken body just to finish the job. Throughout the story we describe our worst moments, the battles we waged inside ourselves and with each other as we struggled with the likelihood that our daughter would never make it out of the NICU alive.
Juniper is a love story, yes, but one that holds nothing back on how messy real love can be, especially when two people are suddenly dropped inside a long dark tunnel. In the end, we found a way to carry our daughter out of that place. But the path back to our lives required us to face our deepest flaws and fears. That's what the book is about.