We recently published L Mari Harris’s heartbreaking Mona and Maribel.
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) I love the relationship between the two sisters, how they protect and care for each other. Do you think their relationship would be different had they grown up under different circumstances, or would they still be as close?
You will always find the tiniest bit of autobiography in my fiction. I am an only child of an alcoholic household. While there is some level of dysfunction in every family, some are decidedly more damaging than others, and I am attuned to spotting kids today who are holding onto secrets and stress and unhappiness. So this story is an amalgamation of what I observe in other family dynamics today, along with a few memories of my own floating in from many decades ago. Now, to answer your question after this long preamble, I’m not sure if Mona and Maribel would be as close as they are if they didn’t have these circumstances to navigate. But I do know their love for each other, how they protect each other, how they have something warm and solid to grab onto on those nights their mother is deep inside the walls of her own unhappiness and on those endless days their father is off living another life with another family, is me popping up, wishing I could have had a sister to grasp all those decades ago.
2) The scene at the Burger King is so great! I love this line: “They wanted to ask him if they could live with him and his other family, but it came out sounding like Can we have more fries?” What made you select a Burger King for the setting of this scene?
I hope Burger King corporate doesn’t come after me for this answer, but I specifically chose it because you can usually find one in small towns (I don’t specifically name place in this story, but for me, it’s small-town Nebraska) that are slowly falling into disrepair, just like this fractured family has fallen into disrepair. And this leads me to why the dad takes his daughters there. I would like to believe he truly cares about and loves his daughters, but actually expending the energy and money to help take care of them isn’t something he’s concerned with. He makes it plain he has a new family (all sons, hmmm) to support as well, even as he cloaks it around how much he misses them. Taking them out to somewhere more expensive is not something he’s about to do. Even though I don’t state it, it doesn’t take too much of a stretch to hear him saying they can have what they want as long as it comes off the value menu. These girls are hungry. For food. For their parents’ love and nurturing. For wanting happy lives that continue to inexplicably be just out of reach. But they don’t know how to verbalize their emotional needs to their father. They do, though, have the words for an easier need to vocalize, which is the physical need for food. There’s something very human in that moment for me.