When she arrives in Cherrywood Grove for a working vacation, shy photographer Trisha Ivy expects to kick back and relax, enjoying her last summer of freedom before turning into a real adult with a mortgage and a nine-to-five. After all, her real life is back in Chicago with her best friend Bella, not a sleepy small town. But Trisha keeps running into beautiful, confident Gabi Gonzalez, a caterer working all the same weddings…and she’s the daughter of Trisha’s favorite local TV star. Trisha can’t resist getting to know her. After all, she’s only in town for the summer, and Gabi is straight. What harm could it do?
Gabi Gonzalez has spent most of her life trying to escape Cherrywood Grove and find something bigger and better. During an internship in Milwaukee, she thought she’d finally found it. But after her father’s sudden death, she returns home and tries to squeeze back into the same childhood roles: kid sister, cool aunt, tireless worker. She’s just resigned herself to going through the motions when she meets Trisha, someone who finally sees Gabi for her own self instead of putting her in a box. Can Gabi open up to Trisha about what she really wants before Trisha leaves town for good?
Making a book playlist is part of my prewriting process. When I pick out songs, I keep a few things in mind. First of all, what is this book’s main mood? Angst, contentment, longing? And how can I reflect that through music to put me in the right state to work? Second, what music do my characters listen to? Thinking about what songs they would love or hate helps bring them into focus, even though our tastes rarely align exactly.
Weight of Living’s actual playlist is several hours long to avoid running into too many repeat songs while I’m working, so I can’t share the whole thing. But here’s a selection, complete with explanations of why I picked each song.
1) The Weight of Living Pt. II, Bastille
The bridge to this song asks, “Do you like the person you’ve become?” At the beginning of the book, Gabi and Trisha would both answer no. Although on paper, they have great lives, with successful businesses and good support structures, neither of them are happy. The problem is clear, but they don’t know how to change things or what they might be missing in life.
(But wait, M.A., I hear you asking. “Part II?” Yeah, for some reason, Bastille has two songs named “The Weight of Living,” and Pt. II comes first both on the album and on this playlist. We’ll get to Pt. I and why it’s last in a little bit.)
2) “Fidelity” Regina Spektor
This song represents Trisha at the opening of the story. Supposedly, Trisha came to Cherrywood Grove for the summer to give her newly married best friend some alone time with her husband. Then the three of them are going to look for a joint house (because let’s be real, they’re all self-employed millennials, and none of them can afford a place on their own).
Really, Trisha came to town for reasons even she doesn’t understand. She thinks some time by herself might help her refocus, but instead she’s found herself falling into the same pattern of working, eating, and watching anime until far too late at night. Luckily, she’s about to meet the perfect person to help her shake things up.
3) “Promise to Keep” by Brandi Carlile
This song is technically about a breakup, but it matches Gabi’s state of mind at the beginning of the book. A year ago, Gabi was on the verge of starting over somewhere far from Cherrywood Grove. Then her father died suddenly, and Gabi had to come back. Now she lives in her childhood home, surrounded by her father’s stuff, which was too painful to sort through after losing him so abruptly. Most nights, she works herself to exhaustion to force herself to stop wondering how things might have been different if she’d only had a little more time away from home or what her father might think of her now.
4) “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine
This song represents Gabi and Trisha’s series of meet-cutes at a set of three very strange weddings. Both of them haven’t made new friends in a while, so their chance encounters give them an opportunity to reinvent themselves a little and maybe even take a few steps out of their comfort zones.
5) “My Best Friend” by Eisley
To put it plainly, this is the gayest song written by a supposedly straight person I have ever heard. It perfectly encapsulates the way Trisha feels about Gabi: a deep longing she’s certain is hopeless, since Gabi is, by all accounts, straight. At the same time, though, she is simply happy for Gabi’s friendship, as Gabi’s patience and charm helps Trisha find a different, more confident side of herself.
6) “No Lights on the Horizon” by Metric
One of the lines of this deeply soft rock song goes “If it wasn’t for your kindness lately, I’d never get out of bed,” which is exactly how Gabi comes to feel about Trisha. As Gabi introduces Trisha to her family and friends, she realizes how much she’s withdrawn from everyone and everything she loves. Her conversations with Trisha inspire her to pick up her passions again and to repair the relationships she’s let wither while she was buried under grief.
7) “The Weight of Living, Pt. 1” by Bastille
Part I comes after Part II in this playlist because both songs ask, “Do you like the person you’ve become?” But while Part II is about feeling trapped in your own life, Part I is about how to conquer that feeling: by letting go of the things holding you back, whatever they might be. For Trisha, it’s her lack of self-assurance. For Gabi, it’s her grief. When they meet each other, they gain the chance to finally set their burdens down and be themselves for the first time.
Find the whole playlist here.
M.A. Hinkle swears a lot and makes jokes at inappropriate times, so she writes about characters who do the same thing. She’s also worked as an editor and proofreader for the last eight years, critiquing everything from graduate school applications to romance novels.
Genre: Contemporary Genre: Romance Identity: Transgender Orientation: Lesbian Pairing: F/F Publisher: Nine Star Press Review Tag: Art / Artist Tag: Food Tag: Guest Post Tag: Part of a series Tag: PoC Trigger Warning: Homophobia Trigger Warning: Loss of family member Trigger Warning: Transphobia Cherrywood Grove M.A. Hinkle The Weight of Living