Guest post: @roisinmeaney on saying yes to 'The Reunion.' @HachetteIre


The reunion by roisin meaney

It's their twenty-year school reunion but the Plunkett sisters have their own reasons for not wanting to attend ...

Caroline, now a successful knitwear designer, spends her time flying between her business in England and her lover in Italy. As far as she's concerned, her school days, and what happened to her the year she left, should stay in the past.
Eleanor, meanwhile, is unrecognisable from the fun-loving girl she was in school. With a son who is barely speaking to her, and a husband keeping a secret from her, revisiting the past is the last thing on her mind.
But when an unexpected letter arrives for Caroline in the weeks before the reunion, memories are stirred.
Will the sisters find the courage to return to the town where they grew up and face what they've been running from all these years?

The Reunion is a moving story about secrets, sisters and finding a way to open your heart.

Guest post:

It’s not that I have anything against reunions. On the contrary, I love the idea of them. Revisiting the past, meeting up again with people who were once part of my daily life, discovering what paths they’d taken, how their lives had panned out, would be fascinating – and of course, as a writer I’m well aware how daft it is to be rejecting occasions that would surely provide fodder for half a dozen novels – but since I left college (aeons ago) every reunion invitation I’ve received from there has ended up in my recycling bin, and I’ve similarly resisted all attempts to get me to reconnect with school friends from further back.
The problem, ridiculous as it may sound, is my abysmal memory. At the end of any given day I can hardly call to mind what I had for breakfast, or what the weather was like when I pulled apart my bedroom curtains a mere handful of hours before. Now imagine me walking into a roomful of people I haven’t seen for some considerable time; imagine the embarrassment of having to ask the name of everyone I meet, the anxiety of trying frantically to recall the tiniest detail of our previous relationships, the stress involved in the whole sorry scenario. And here’s the thing: you can bet they’d all remember me. I’m not sure that it’s a good or a bad thing that anyone I bump into from my younger days, even my far younger days, has no trouble identifying me, but invariably I draw a blank with them, and have to bluff along as best I can, hoping to God I’ll get through the conversation without having to admit, not only that his or her name has escaped me, but that I’ve also forgotten every other detail of their identity. Sometimes I get away with it, more often than not I don’t. You can see why I run a mile from reunions.
My mother is the complete opposite. Even at eighty-seven her memory is as reliable as the downpour that happens on your way home from the hairdresser: she remembers people from her childhood as clearly as those she met yesterday. A few years ago she attended her fifty-year college reunion, and came home on a high from meeting women she’d last encountered when colour television was still a twinkle in RTE’s eye – and you can bet your life she wasn’t stuck for a name all night.
So why, given my reunion phobia, did I choose it as the theme for my new novel? That came about, in fact, as a result of a conversation I had last year, at the only reunion I can remember attending (but given the memory problem, I may well have been to many more). The occasion was the twenty-fifth year in existence of the school in which I’d spent the final eleven years of my teaching career. Everyone who’d had any association with the school was invited to return and celebrate its silver anniversary, and since I still lived in the vicinity and often encountered my former colleagues (whom I generally managed to remember, miraculously) I figured my name would be mud if I didn’t put in an appearance. On the appointed day I headed for the school, bracing myself every step of the way for the mortification that surely awaited me.
Astonishingly, the evening was nowhere near as fraught as I’d anticipated. I actually managed to remember more names than I forgot, so only about half my time was spent apologising. Among the assembled were scores of past pupils whom I felt fine about not recognising, given that the now teenagers had been youngsters of four or five when I’d last had any dealings with them – and by and large the parents of these youths had for some reason attached themselves to what fragments of my crumbling memory they could find, so I survived the night with much of my dignity intact. At one stage I was in conversation with a mother of one of my old students, and she remarked that a reunion would make a good theme for a novel – and after tossing the notion around in my head for a minute I had to agree. Lots of scope for character development, a nice natural split in the narrative between then and now, plenty of room for plot twists as I guided the story from past to present. And that night, even though I was still working on a previous book, the decision was made to go the reunion route with the next.
And you know what? For the eight months or so I spent on the first draft, I found my attitude towards reunions in general beginning to change. As I wrote, I felt myself becoming more open to the idea of meeting up with people from my past. So what if I had to admit to memory lapses? Wouldn’t the embarrassment be worth it to find out what had become of that girl from secondary school, the one with the red hair who came top in every subject but who hadn’t a single friend in the class? And wouldn’t it be interesting to see who’d emigrated, who’d never married (hello), who’d achieved success or suffered heartbreak along the way – or indeed, to find out who hadn’t made it this far?
So the next time I get a reunion invite, I’m thinking of saying yes instead of no. Must remember to bring my notebook with me – no way will I remember all the stories the next day. 

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