Q&A for Dr. Francine Kaufman, author of Rhythms

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Book Description:  Caring for her mother, Olivia, on the last three days of Olivia’s life, Dr. Rebecca Brodie struggles to achieve enough balance in her life to stay on stable ground. As her story weaves back and forth in time, Rebecca is oblivious to the missing clues which not only explain Olivia’s actions, but would ALSO help Rebecca understand the years of storms created by her sister, Sharon. Available on Amazon, in Kindle and paperback.  http://www.amazon.com/Rhythms-Francine-Kaufman/dp/1889467421/

Q: What is the book about?

Dr. Francine Kaufman: Rhythms is a family drama centered around the death of the protagonist’s elderly, frail mother. It takes place over three days, but toggles back and forth in time to introduce the reader to the characters and their lives.  The three days in the present show how all-consuming caring for an elderly parent can be – particularly when that parent resides in your home.

Q: What motivated you to write it?

Dr. Kaufman: I was motivated by the power of families keeping secrets. I was also moved to write to come to terms with the death of my own mother. I did care for my own mother when she was dying in my home. There were times it was very hard. I tried to reveal the fear, disgust, and rawness of realizing that you have become your mother’s mother.  I also tried to show how this intermingles with the realization that many of us don’t really know who all that there is to know about our own mothers. I always felt my mother had secrets and I didn’t know all that happened to her in her life. I know we all have secrets and I explored in my book how this helps share who we are and what can happen in our lives.

Q: The book is a skillful blend of medical detail and the personal life of a family. How easy was that for you to do, since this is your first novel after all.  

Dr. Kaufman: As a doctor, I found myself drawn to telling the story through a medical lens. And also that in the life of a doctor who is a mother and wife, there is a lot of multi-tasking. I drew on my own experience for that. The protagonist, Dr. Rebecca Brodie, is a doctor in every cell of her body, excited by research, but driven by the human interactions, the stories she is told by her patients, and the need to play detective to determine what is real from what is not. Her job as a doctor is to find out everything about everyone, but yet I show in my book how she is unable to find out everything about her own family. There’s irony in Rebecca being able to penetrate the facades put in place by her patients, but not by her own family.

Q: Is this a feminist “having it all” sort of story?

Dr. Kaufman:  Rhythms is the story of the woman raised in a time when the world wanted her to believe she could do anything and everything. Only Rebecca could determine for herself at what sacrifice that had to be done – and cope with the angst of never feeling she could do enough. Perhaps it’s a feminist story about an empowered, effective woman who is a doctor and scientist, but it also shows the emotional ties that a woman needs to thrive as a mother and wife.

Dr. Francine Kaufman is perhaps best known for her critically-acclaimed nonfiction book Diabesity: The Obesity-Diabetes Epidemic That Threatens America – And What We Must Do to Stop It; (Bantam; 2005).  She has a long list of more technical writing as well, books and more 200 peer-reviewed publications.

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