If you’re looking to add new book releases to your reading list in 2024, be sure to pre-order Gail Marlene Schwartz’s ‘Falling Through the Night‘ (Demeter Press, Feb. 25th, 2024), which has been described as a “sweet, and romantic lesbian love story”, and novel featuring a LGBTQ+ protagonist which “shines a light on the ups and downs of anxiety disorder”.
The Teaching Excellence Award recipient and author gracefully navigates difficult topics in her sapphic, Jewish adult novel inspired by Gail’s personal experiences (immigration, anxiety, and a close friend’s suicide). “Falling Through the Night” is a romantic, funny coming-of-age story that explores the complicated journey of healing trauma and learning how to love.
Audrey Meyerwitz, an introverted 30-something adoptee with anxiety, wants nothing more than to fall in love and create a healthy family, but the path to romance isn’t simple. Audrey’s life has been packed with sleepless nights, psychiatrists, and a string of nightmare ex-girlfriends. Determined to ensure that her future is a step in a healthier direction, Audrey lets her best friend Jessica, a recovering alcoholic, sign her up for a queer online dating app. What ensues is Audrey’s scary first step toward her lifelong dream: a strong, loving family.
When Audrey falls for Denise, a French Canadian from Montreal, she finds herself immigrating to Canada and building a new life in Quebec, where she finds community in a collection of queer friends and, eventually, embarks on her dream of starting a family. But when she unearths a secret about her adoptive mother, she must re-evaluate everything she understood about her place in the world.
Funny, honest, and profound, ‘Falling Through the Night’ is a stirring story about cultivating healthy love from profound alienation: accepting both gains and losses, taking off the blinders of fantasy, and embracing the messiness that defines human nature and imperfect families.
Gail’s book is the kind of prose that gets us excited to pick up a new novel, interweaving everyday lived experiences into a story that is both enlightening and relatable in many ways. Her willingness to be vulnerable by drawing on her own life allows us a glimpse into a life we may not inhabit ourselves, but can build a unique kind of empathy as a reader. Gail is also the author of ‘My Sister’s Girlfriend’ and ‘The Loudest Bark’ (Rebel Mountain Press) and co-editor of the forthcoming essay collection, ‘Boyhood Reimagined: Stories of Queer Moms Raising Sons’ (Motina Books).
Read on below to learn more from the author herself about why she chose to focus on her specific themes, the similarities and differences between Gail and her protagonist Audrey, and what she hopes readers will love most about ‘Falling Through The Night’.
You’ve previously mentioned that this book is semi-autobiographical. What parts of your experiences have you woven into your main character, Audrey? Where do you and Audrey differ?
Like Audrey, I’m an anxiety sufferer; I also fell in love with a woman from Montreal and immigrated. I had a twin pregnancy and one twin had Down Syndrome, and he went home with an adoptive family. But unlike me, Audrey is adopted with a terrific relationship with her mom, and she grew up with a psychiatric disability and identity. She’s an introvert and a visual artist, and had a lot more support in her childhood than I did.
This book heavily discusses mental health, specifically anxiety. What do you see as the most important thing in understanding anxiety?
My anxiety connects me with unmet needs; it’s a signal to stop and tune in and attend to myself. Only when I stopped seeing it as a disease and something to be gotten rid of did I actually begin to work with it and to heal. I also believe that cultural, political, social, environmental, and economic alienation can play a huge role in anxiety. I don’t see it as a personal problem, even if it’s an intensely personal experience.
Why is the chosen family such an important theme in this novel, specifically from a queer lens?
Family is the oldest and strongest mainstream social structure that we have in the U.S., and when we aren’t partnered or close to our families of origin, life can be very lonely. Chosen family was my salvation. Not only did I find people who loved me for myself, but those same people helped teach me new and healthier ways of being in relationship. Chosen family is how and why I grew up. Most straight people I know don’t consider crafting social alternatives when partnership or biological family fails; it’s a beautiful phenomenon LGBTQ people have to share.
Why did you choose to write a novel discussing more difficult topics such as mental health, addiction, and suicide?
My artistic practice is about going into the deepest truths of human experience, especially the difficult ones that are hard to talk about. I’m interested in how artists can shift calcified and outdated ways of understanding social problems through storytelling. These are also my experiences, and it’s a joy to create something out of struggle because it helps me feel like the hardship had meaning; what I lived serves my readers and their journeys.
What do you hope readers will take away from your work?
I want readers to know that even “successful” people who publish books can be a mess. I want them to walk away with hope that these struggles don’t have to mean failure, that hard stuff can be woven into the meaning and work of their lives. I want readers to laugh at the funny parts and feel uplifted. I want the book to be a mirror for their courage and the courage of those close to them. If my work is a tiny part of changing the conversation about mental health, I will die a happy woman.