A Word on Words | NPT

S6 E12 | FULL EPISODE

What Could Be Saved | Liese O’Halloran Schwarz | NPT

"We are a hair's breadth away from tragedy at all times. It's a really sour outlook, but I think we're also lucky because we evade it most of the time. I feel like there are so many times things could go wrong and they don't. And how great that is." Liese O'Halloran Schwarz talks with Mary Laura Philpott about her book WHAT COULD BE SAVED.

AIRED: May 05, 2021 | 0:02:30
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TRANSCRIPT

(typing words)

(bell ding)

(light music)

- [Liese] I'm Liese O'Halloran Schwartz,

and this is What Could Be Saved.

A novel about an American expatriate family in Bangkok

whose eight year old son goes missing

and what happens when decades later,

a man appears claiming to be the vanished boy.

My father was a social scientist

and I was actually born in Africa,

and then we moved to Bangkok.

And it was such a formative period of my life though,

that it really marked me, it formed me.

- [Mary Laura] You wrote something that I loved

about how a story can carry a flavor of truth

about a family while not resorting to actual fact.

- Yes, none of the things happened in my book, in real life,

but all of it could have happened.

One of the main characters, Genevieve,

who was one of the main characters in this short story,

she's the mother of this family.

I needed her to not be like my mother at all,

and so I made her dislike being

in Bangkok and her character grew from there.

My mother loved Bangkok and that kind

of fundamental difference is enough to bloom fiction for me.

(enchanted flute)

- [Mary Laura] There are so many moments in this story where

if one tiny thing had happened differently,

everything would have been different.

Do you think a lot about before and after moments?

- Oh, sure.

There's actually a line in my previous book,

The Possible World,

and one of the characters is a doctor and she says,

"You know, it's another opportunity

to plow that divide between before and after

into somebody's life.

Because you go into the room as a doctor and you say,

'I'm so sorry, your husband's dead.'"

I mean, that's extremely, there you are,

you're a witness to a lot of before and afters.

And I do think about before and after, I mean,

just we are a hair's breadth away from tragedy at all times.

It's a really sour outlook,

but I think we're also lucky

because we evaded most of the time.

I feel like there are so many times things could go wrong

and they don't.

And how great that is.

- [Mary Laura] Thanks for watching A Word on Words.

For more of my conversation with Liese Schwarz,

visit awordonwords.org and keep reading.

(bell ding)

- [Liese] I wrote my first book when I was three,

the incredibly ambitious, The History of the World

and I still have it.

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