I Smile Back
(Two Dollar Radio, $15)
Amy Koppelman’s first novel, A Mouthful of Air, garnered high praise when it appeared in 2003; “a smart, sensitive
first novel”; “her prose is as sparse and powerful as poetry”; “this new writer should definitely be considered a rising
star”; lean, minutely detailed and frighteningly convincing.”
So one might have assumed that her second novel, I Smile Back, would be snapped up by a mainstream publisher.
But in the cautious, bottom-line world of book publishing today, that assumption would be wrong. A big-name agent
did take on Koppelman’s book, but after a year of pitching it, she backed out. “She said that the publishers found it too
dark and depressing,” Koppelman reported.
Happily, another agent stepped in and after more than a year of pitching the book, connected with the edgy
independent publisher, Two Dollar Radio, which liked the novel and wasn’t afraid of its tough story.
Koppelman has been delighted with her new publishers. “They believe so much in books and words and how
literature can affect you,” said. She appreciates the working relationship she has had with her editor, “a real editor,
who helped make the book a better book.”
I Smile Back is an unnerving portrait of a modern suburban woman who seems to have it all. But, as the publisher
describes, “Beneath Laney’s composed surface is the impulse to follow in the footsteps of her father, to leave and
topple her family’s balance in the process.”
Koppelman said she is drawn to explore questions about why some children of troubled parents end up recreating the
sadness or mistreatment they experienced. There’s a term for this in psychology, Koppelman learned: transgenerational
trauma recurrence. “I rolled my eyes when I first heard it, but it really does describe what happens.”
The human mind is “so fascinating,” Koppelman said, “I sometimes wish I could have become a shrink.” Instead
she became a novelist: “Writing is my way of trying to understand.”
She’s working on a third novel now, and also on a children’s book publishing project that, like her novel, has
been rejected as “too depressing.” Called “Is It Contagious?” the series of informative books aims to help children
understand things like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes.
Koppelman, who lives in New York City with her husband and two children, came up with the idea when her
husband’s parents both contracted cancer and her son asked her, “ Is it contagious?”
Next Review >>>
REVIEWS & PRESS
FROM THE BOOK
BUY THE BOOK
BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS