by Hilary Davidson
I’m excited to be joining Criminal Minds. Normally, my standard line is that I wouldn’t join any club that would have me for a member (thank you, Groucho Marx), but Criminal Minds is more like a pirate ship. If I were planning a heist, these are the people I’d want staking out the target, donning the bunny masks, and driving the getaway car. I’ll be sharing Sundays with Sue Ann Jaffarian, which means, as the old song says, Sunday will never be the same.
When my first novel, THE DAMAGE DONE, was published — exactly two months ago today — the terrific Rebecca Cantrell invited me to visit Criminal Minds. The question I had to answer was “What fictional character would you leave your partner for?” Aside from having to shield my husband’s eyes from the answer, the question wasn’t anywhere near as tough as this week’s. That’s because my main character, Lily Moore, hasn’t had anything approaching a family Thanksgiving dinner since she was 13 years old, when her father died. Her mother, already unstable and a drinker, uprooted Lily and her sister, Claudia, and moved them from town to town while they were teenagers. There was no extended family, and while Lily tried to take care of her sister when they were growing up, they ended up on very different paths. Lily was the good girl who did well in school and escaped reality by watching old films, especially ones featuring her idol, Ava Gardner. Claudia played truant, falling in with a rough crowd and developing a heroin habit.
In THE DAMAGE DONE, Lily is called home to New York when she’s told her sister has died, only to discover at the morgue that the corpse belongs to a woman who’d stolen Claudia’s identity, and that her sister is missing. The fact that the two have been estranged for some time makes it tough for Lily to know where to begin searching for Claudia. The tradition of getting together with family on Thanksgiving is one that they’ve ignored in their adult lives, and it’s something Lily comes to regret as she searches for her sister.
To say that Lily hates family holidays would be an understatement. Part of the reason she became a travel writer was so she would never have to sit at home alone through another lonely holiday while other people are with their loved ones. On Thanksgiving, she’s somewhere else in the world—it could be Buenos Aires, or Tokyo, or Istanbul—but the main thing is that it’s a place where people aren’t celebrating the holiday.
I have to confess, it’s a stark contrast with my own family Thanksgiving. I’m originally from Canada, where Thanksgiving falls in October, and it’s not quite the sacred tradition it is in the U.S. By that, I mean that while my mother cooks a turkey dinner that day, I think jealous thoughts in New York about the feast that my dad and my brothers are enjoying… though it’s never occurred to me to visit for that occasion. For my husband’s family, Thanksgiving is a sacred holiday marked by an annual pilgrimage to Philadelphia. It’s notable for greatness on three fronts: company (it’s rare for fewer than 25 people to show up), food and wine. And if I could invite Lily along for it, I would.