By: Michael Kimball
Review and Interview by: Lauren
Dear Everybody is the life of weatherman Jonathon who commits suicide. Starting from his death and going back, his brother Robert helps tell you Jonathon's story for himself and the readers. Robert collects various diary entries of his mother's, letters that Jonathon wrote to a wide variety of poeple, interviews with people who knew Jonathon such as his parents, and more to tell this story of a life who tried so hard...yet couldn't make it.
I'm a big fan of stories told in this type of manner, and I think it was very effective. The story allows you to see inside the mind of Jonathon and those that knew him, yet never truly gives you the reason behind his death for when it comes to suicide, it's hard to ever get the real answer. Dear Everybody is a quick read, yet very interesting and true to life. This book tells the tale of infidelity, mental illness, and the fact that life is often hard to manage.
Now, author Michael Kimball was kind enough to answer a few questions about Dear Everybody, as well as a new project that deals with your life...on a postcard!
When you first started writing this, how did it begin? Is the first letter you wrote in the book?
[Dear Everybody was just one letter in the beginning and that first letter was just a flash in my mind, a man who was apologizing to a woman. The man and the woman were supposed to meet up, go out, and hadn’t. The man is wondering if maybe his whole life came out wrong because of that missed date. I eventually cut that letter, in one of the revisions a couple of years later, but it gave me the voice of Jonathon and a rush of a few hundred more letters followed.
Why did you decide to have the brother be the narrator of the story?
[At first, the novel was just a few hundred letters from Jonathon mostly apologizing to everybody he has ever known. But during one of the revisions I added the last will and testament, then the eulogy, and the novel started to open up in a new way after that. I added the mother’s diary entries, the psychological reports, weather reports, yearbook quotes, class notes, to-do lists, the mixtape. At that point, I knew that I needed some kind of frame for all the various elements and documents that made up Dear Everybody. That’s when Jonathon’s brother, Robert, went from being just a character to also being a narrator. I wrote Robert’s introduction and that added another layer to the novel. The reader learns about Jonathon right along with Robert.]
Do you have any particular messages you hope readers' get from the book?
[I don’t have any particular message for readers. I never set out with that in mind. But I’m always trying to write about things that matter—the difficulty of growing up, how wonderful and comforting love and happiness can be, the loneliness of being human, the different ways people attempt to manage death and the terrible grief that follows it.]
You are currently working on a project that involves writing someone's life story on a postcard. Can you give us more details?
[The project started on a lark at an arts festival -- Postcard Life Stories -- where I asked people a few questions and then wrote their life stories on postcards. I was astounded by what people told me, the secrets and the difficulties, the pain and wonder and hope that they revealed. People told me about being in jail, about having too many boyfriends, about suicide attempts, about computer hacking, about communicating with the dead, about communicating with aliens, about terrible things they have done. The life story project tapped into something I hadn’t expected. I was struck by how earnest and forthcoming most people were, how eager they were to share their life stories, how grateful they were for their postcard. I love writing the postcard life stories for people and I have learned that everybody, in one way or another, including you, is amazing.]