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NEPM brings you interviews with New England authors to add to your summer reading list.

'You Again' Asks: If You Could Meet Your Younger Self, What Would You Say?

Author Debra Jo Immergut describes her third novel, "You Again," as part mystery, part thriller, part literary fiction.

Immergut, who writes and teaches writing in Northampton, Massachusetts, said the main character — 46- year-old Abigail Williard — has the chance to see and eventually talk with her much younger self. 

Debra Jo Immergut, author: What happens to Abigail is extraordinary. She is coming home late from her stressful, heavy-duty, Manhattan office job in a taxicab on a rainy night, late.

She looks out the window and she sees this young woman coming out of a doorway. And she instantly recognizes this woman as her 22-year-old self. It's utterly inexplicable to her, obviously. Things like this don't happen.

There's another layer of the story, which is a group of people trying to explain these uncanny encounters and this situation in this ordinary woman's life, which is so extraordinary.

So we have some investigators from different fields: science, psychology and crime. And they're helping us, as the readers, assess what might actually be going on, because there's no doubt that something very real is happening to Abigail. 

Nancy Eve Cohen, NEPM: When she meets her younger self, she wants to talk with her younger self. I was wondering if you would read an excerpt about that. 

"Maybe I actually could talk to the girl. Maybe I could tell her a thing or two.


What would I tell her, anyway. Steer her clear of some half-remembered trouble? Or direct her straight toward it?

Because if you could change the outcome, would you change the outcome?

Weigh all you once lost against all you stand to lose.

An impossible equation. An evil sort of math.

Also, ridiculous. Insane. This was a random girl. A cluster of strangely evocative matter that had sailed across my trajectory. She was not me. Seriously."

What was fun for you about writing this book, this story, creating these characters?

I took such pleasure in writing about a visual artist and a painter and her world.

But I also just really relished the chance to delve into these questions of how our young ambitions play out. And what if things don't go according to your plans? And what if your dreams are delayed or or go unfulfilled? And, you know, what do you find instead? It's extremely rich and deep material.

I loved writing the scenes between Abigail and Young A. I loved writing their conversations. I mean, you know, how many things would you say to your younger self or your older self?

So, that was just pure pleasure for me. It also almost broke my brain, I will say. I mean, it was it was a very challenging book to write. It was a real rubrics cube to work it all out. But you know there's pleasure in that, too.

And the challenges were about fitting these different aspects of the story together?

Yes. And, you know, I really had to think through if Abigail is talking to A and A really is her younger self,  what are the implications? I read that bit where she says, you know, "If you could change the outcome, would you change the outcome?"

Was she trying to stop her from making certain mistakes? Or was she trying to make sure that she made those mistakes so that Abigail could end up married to who she was married to, having these two teenage boys who she loves with all her heart and soul? So, she doesn't want to give up her present life, but she really wants to find herself and those pieces of herself that she lost.

That was complicated stuff to work through — just the implications of bending and folding time. 

Check out more of NEPM’s Summer Fiction series here.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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