Most of the questions I get from readers about my novel Holy Days are personal, about my experiences. However, some readers have asked me about a couple of seemingly far-fetched elements in the book – namely the bow and arrow and the handsome young Italian who seems to step out of Romeo & Juliet (Luke was more of a Tybalt than a Romeo) right into Holy Days.
I wrote Holy Days almost exactly as it happened. I had to. In order to do justice to what happened and how it happened. To do justice for the victims. I did not want to change the truth.
*First, I’ll address the bow and arrow. A few readers have said the bow and arrow seemed to appear out of nowhere. “What a surprise!” I wondered if they’d been paying attention? As a young girl, Gloria was enamored of the Robin Hood story. She loved Robin, and Maid Marion, whom the story told, was a better rider and marksman than Robin. Gloria found the words wonderfully beautiful. She found the ideals courageous and powerful. Gloria, after being raped, regresses somewhat into the comfort and strength she found in childhood in the noble beauty of the Robin Hood legend. The night of the rape, Gloria falls asleep with her body wrapped around her old Robin Hood book so tightly, she wakes with cramped arms. The next day, when her friend is molested in broad daylight on a crowded street, Gloria is furious; she runs after the man clutching the long bow she just bought. So passionate and distraught is she that she forgets she has it and nearly trips over it. Remembering, Gloria stands and readies the weapon. Gloria had to use the bow and arrow. No other weapon would have sufficed because Gloria commits a hero’s murder and she needed a hero’s weapon. The truth of the matter is that the molestation really happened and I ran after the molester. I obviously did not have a long bow and arrows or you would have heard about it.
Now, our young man, Luke.
It may be astounding to my readers, but Luke was real. I was his teacher, not his love. Such an amazing person really did appear in my classroom on the first day of my student teaching. He really was from Italy. He really had long, dark hair. He really was 20 and turned 21 during the school year. The other kids really did love him. They were a wonderful class, full of joy and affection for each other. It was a revelation to me to witness how they treated one another, as I had mostly known spite and violence. They really kidded him gently about his name, which was not Luke, but in its formal expression did sound feminine like Luciano. He really was working as a shoe repair guy and he really planned to return to Italy against his father’s wishes. His girl friend really did not want to go back with him, which caused him pain and confusion. She really preferred to enjoy her material success as a Firestone tire saleswoman. Luke really drove a classic red Alfa Romeo of which he was very proud.
The real Luke inspired me. He showed me that living another kind of life other than the one expected of you was a possibility. (Sometimes I think he was an angel sent by God to show me another way to live.) I developed him into a character because I wanted Gloria to have someone unique. Someone younger than she, someone to inspire hope for the future, someone with a fresh outlook, someone brave and smart enough to take her on, someone who desired a simple, natural life. I never would have believed such a young man existed in reality if I had not met him myself. Luke was real. He was really fine, really intelligent, really sweet. Quiet, and more serious than the others. I never forgot him. I gave him to Gloria.
*Note: Holy Days was finished in 1996. Obviously, I wrote the murder scene long before The Hunger Games books (2008) were written. Not crazy about sharing my hero’s weapon, but I’ll be gracious to a fellow writer.
©Patricia Goodwin, 2016
Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation.