Thursday, April 10, 2014

Zoe Fishman: Life Imitates Art in 'Driving Lessons'

by Joyce Lamb)

(Photo: William Morrow)

Zoe Fishman, author of Driving Lessons, shares how her new release mirrors some moments in her own life.

Zoe: In my new book, Driving Lessons — out today! — Sarah trades in the hustle and bustle of her New York City life for the decidedly slower pace of a sleepy fictional town in Virginia. Although at first she sees her decision as the perfect solution to her problems — an easier life will mean more time for figuring out who she truly is and what she wants out of a career and from her marriage — she quickly learns that, without the frenetic pace of her urban existence, she is lost. And with no confidence behind the wheel, she is also, quite literally, stuck. Rather than liberate her, the freedom of her new life ironically paralyzes her instead.

Like Sarah, I left New York after 13 years to move south to the outskirts of Atlanta with my husband. Unlike Sarah, however, who is ambivalent about motherhood despite what she feels is a ticking time bomb of doom suspended above her 36-year-old head, I was pregnant and happy to transition to the suburbs. Rather than fight my way onto the subway with a stroller or join a preschool waiting list before the start of my second trimester, I would gestate and write; perhaps finally learn how to roast a chicken.

So that's what I did for the remaining months of my pregnancy. I wrote, learned how to cook and cobbled together my baby registry with the precision of a neurosurgeon. Atlanta seemed OK, but I didn't really know why. I was too busy nesting and napping to say for sure. Oh, those naps. How I miss them! All curled up inside a pregnancy pillow like the baby in my womb, eating gummy peaches and reading books in the late afternoon twilight.

And then, my son Ari arrived, and everything changed.

The reality of my decision — to leave all that I knew and start over someplace else as the new Mommy version of my former self — proved very different from what I had imagined. In the exhaustion of new parenthood, I missed New York's non-stop energy. I missed my friends. I missed my schedule. I missed my favorite restaurants and boutiques and coffee shops and bars and well, me. Part of that was, of course, post-partum nerves and a sleeplessness the likes of which I had never known, but the other part was a real sense of yearning for something — anything — that felt familiar in such uncharted territory.

In Driving Lessons, Sarah has to work at making her new life hers; discovering that it's not New York she misses so much as a sense of self and purpose, I had to do the same, and really, that's what being a mother ultimately did for me. Like Sarah, I was terrified of driving, but with Ari in tow, I had no choice. I emerged from my cocoon of self-doubt in order to make my new life work for me and for my family.

Now, Ari is 2, and I can honestly say that I am truly engaged in and enjoying my life in Atlanta. We've moved in-town, to a great neighborhood that evokes an urban sensibility that feels like home. There are sidewalks for strolling, and a park at the end of my street for playing, plus the bustling vitality of downtown Decatur close by.

Do I still have my moments when I miss New York? Absolutely. But not in the bottomless way that I used to. Besides, as Sarah learns, that's what planes are for, right?

To find out more about Zoe and her books, visit