Parting Gifts is broken into four parts, the four decisions that seemed to shape Sarah’s life. What are some of the decisions that you made that shaped your life the most?

The idea that life sometimes comes down to what appears to be meaningless decisions can be overwhelming. A small decision may have ended up a huge one. For instance, walking into one bar versus another and meeting your future husband. There are so many when you start to think of them.

Where did I get the idea for Parting Gifts?

I got the idea for Parting Gifts while delivering Meals on Wheels in Richmond, VA. There were many elderly people that seemed so alone at the end of their lives, and it made me begin to wonder about what their life stories were. There was one woman in particular that always seemed to haunt me. The is not her story, but she seemed like such a sad, kind soul. She would reach for my hand like she wanted to share something with me but never did. The only similarities were that both women suffered from COPD and were hooked to oxygen tanks. Both women were afraid of thunderstorms. And both women had a neighbor that would come and sit with them. Other than that it is all my imagination. 

Where did you get the picture for Parting Gift’s cover?

The cover of my book is probably not the most professional picture out there, but it is special to me. It is actually a picture of my mother holding my hand. My mother has never loved her hands because they are not what we think of when we envision feminine (I can say this because I was blessed with her same hands). What I love about her hands is that they look like they have seen life. At the age of 18, her new husband, surprised her by buying a dairy farm. They raised seven kids on that farm and not every moment was dreamy. I love the picture because it’s my mom, and also because I feel it shows both the hardships of life and the love behind it all.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was the relationship between Sarah and Mary. Do you have a life-long friendship? Do find that it is easier or harder to keep life-long friendships in this day and age?

I loved the friendship and the snippy humor between them. I feel that because we move more than in the past, it can be difficult to maintain friendships people who grew up and stayed in the same town might have found. As much as social media can be a negative thing, it does help even if many of those friendships are surface level. They might not exist at all otherwise.

Why didn’t Mary tell her she knew what she had done?

I think the fact that Mary didn’t confront Sarah about what she knew is contributed to both what makes Mary a strong character and a weak one. Sarah looked up to Mary from day one. She was smarter, prettier, more popular, more stylish. Sarah depended on her for her existence from the beginning. Mary, on the other hand, seemed to depend on no one, and found her strength in helping others. They were the perfect match. When Sarah decided to be the strong one and take things into her own hands, everything fell apart. In the beginning, Mary stayed with Dan because she thought she could fix him. Then she stayed for the children. When they were younger, Mary stayed with Sarah as a friend because it boosted the part of her that made her Mary. She could always be the stronger one which perpetuated more strength within her. When she realized what Sarah had done for her, she couldn’t leave her or tell her what she knew. It would have been the ultimate admission that Sarah was ill-equipped and even more, it would have put Sarah’s shame on the table for everyone to see. The one thing Sarah wanted to be was a wife and mother. It was where she finally excelled. Mary needed Sarah to admit that her actions killed her son. Otherwise, it would have been too painful. As time passed, it became the only choice.

We do see a cowardliness in Mary as well. She, in some ways, let Sarah carry all the burden of Dan’s crimes. How much of this side of Mary fueled her is up to the individual reader to decide.

Why didn’t Andy tell her he knew?

Why Andy didn’t confront Sarah is very similar to why Mary didn’t. He didn’t feel by addressing it he would bring her out of her darkness. He may have even been concerned with how much darker her world would become if he brought her secrets into the light.

Why didn’t Amanda read letter?

In my opinion, she had had enough. I think to myself, what would I have done and it may come down to my mood and the moment. I could definitely see that she had rebuilt her relationship, she had said a peaceful goodbye, and she was ready to move forward and not spend months or years emotionally trying to come to terms with what was inside the letter. Enough time had been wasted.

Why did she have to learn to love her life again before dying?

This, I feel, is an important part of the book. I don’t feel life is meant to permanently knock us down. In boxing, people bleed, lose teeth, get knocked off their feet, and all that really matters is how did they end the fight. Did they end up broken and sprawled out on the floor, or did they end up standing, even feebly, with an arm in the air declaring themselves the winner. She had to be the winner in her own battle. She beat her demons and could look back and remember the good and the bad in a realistic balance. By dying her hair and getting a pedicure, she remembered a time before she had lost a few rounds, and she found the strength and optimism of that young girl deep inside herself. That girl was able to figure out the puzzle that life seems to put in front of us at times. She could let go of life because she had solved it, and made peace with it.