Before graduating with her master of Divinity degree, N.C. author Lynne Hinton attended the N.C. School of the Arts, School of Filmmaking — both significant points when considering her 21st publication, “The View From Here” (NewSouth Books).
Significant because Hinton’s newest novel is about love and forgiveness, and the unique perspective brought to both from someone who chooses one day to look at the world a bit differently.
The premise is simple: Kate Sinclair climbs a loblolly tree to see if she can, and then decides to encamp there. In a small town, the why factor looms large — a recent divorce, an environmental stand, a midlife crisis?
It is in the first chapter that Kate herself offers an explanation: “I’m finally doing crazy, and heeding the Book Lady’s advice. I’m doing it big.” But, as with the beginning of so many of Hinton’s novels, there is much more to the story. And while Kate is not quite an unreliable narrator, it takes the rest of this inspirational book to get to the heart of the author’s compelling narrative.
Hinton is a gifted writer with a unique authorial perspective that captures a reader from the beginning, and a novelist who offers a metaphor such as this in the first paragraph is writing a large check: “A few may make mention of the divorce as the cause, Dwayne finally packing up his model car collection and sweeping out the garage, tidying up his side of the room like he was getting it ready for my next husband.”
That’s an opening full of such promise that few authors would be skilled enough, or brave enough to offer it up as Hinton does. But it’s a promise she keeps, and one that rewards the reader.
Hinton plans on being in Blowing Rock on June 18 to lead a camp at the Blowing Rock Conference Center, but before then, she recently agreed to answer a few questions about “The View From Here” for Mountain Times. The author’s responses have been edited for clarity and length.
MT: Kate Sinclair quite literally longs for a new perspective on her life. For her, that means acting on an impulse and living for a time in a tree. Most humans wouldn’t take such initiative — are they simply ignoring an inner need, or answering it in different ways?
LH: Both. We ignore the inner needs when we don’t feel we have the luxury to address them. And we answer it in different ways at various times in our lives. Several of my friends are becoming empty-nesters and this appears to be a good time for many to take inventory of their lives and ask questions: What is it I want from life? What do I want to be about? I’ve also got friends at retirement age who are taking a new perspective on life.
MT: Without the kindness of family and friends, could Kate have survived her outer and inner journeys?
LH: I imagine it’s that kindness that even allows her to take the journeys; and it does appear at the outset she was fairly ill-equipped to stay in the trees for very long. I don’t think Kate would have mentioned the kindnesses in the beginning, but by the time she left her “perch,” it’s clear she recognized how fortunate she was.
MT: Much of the story centers on gender roles in one fashion or another. Does it take the unique perspective of looking at such things from between tree branches to address stereotypes?
LH: Distance from anything in one’s life gives a wider and different perspective. Certainly watching relationships unfold from a place “high above” them does show a bit more of the roles people play.
MT: Some of the characters Kate comes into contact with obviously think that being different equals mental instability. Yet by the end of the novel, Kate, like our brief encounter with the Book Lady, shows herself to be one of the most self-actualized people in her world. Would you agree?
LH: I certainly think Kate is not only balanced but definitely self-aware and self-actualized.
MT: “The View From Here” is about so much: nature, grief, survival and forgiveness among those things. If readers had to take just one thing away from the novel, what would you hope it would be?
LH: Your first question resonates with me today. I hope readers will see value in taking “a break” from their lives, just to make the time and space to give real thought and consideration to what they want their lives to be about and the things that are keeping them from being able to be fully engaged in their relationships, in their living.
We live so much of our lives sleep walking, just working, paying bills, being entertained, trying to stay healthy; everyone needs to hit the pause button from time to time and take inventory of their lives, to be attentive to what they really want their lives to be about and what needs to change in order to be fully alive, fully present.