The Next Chapter

Why Jessica Westhead wanted to explore the everyday fears of motherhood in her Canada Reads-longlisted novel

The Toronto author dropped by The Next Chapter to discuss her latest novel, Worry.
Jessica Westhead is a Toronto-based novelist. (HarperCollins, Sinisa Jolic/CBC)

This interview originally aired on March 28, 2020.

Jessica Westhead is the author of the novel Pulpy & Midge and the short story collection And Also Sharks. Her latest is the novel Worry

Worry, a novel that was on the Canada Reads 2020 longlist, is about what happens when longtime friends spend 48 hours together with their families at a cottage. It explores a story about the two mothers and childhood friends who approach child rearing in very different ways. 

She stopped by The Next Chapter to discuss Worry.

Strange anxiety

"Worry is the story of Ruth and her young daughter Fern. They are staying at a remote cottage with Ruth's best friend Stef and her husband Sammy who have older twin daughters.

"Soon after Ruth and Fern arrive at the cottage, they meet a strange neighbour named Marvin who quickly latches onto the group and makes Ruth worry even more than she normally does." 

Family dynamics

"I read a lot of suspenseful books and I'm always looking for books that make me feel something. I wanted to write a book that was suspenseful and that makes you feel things. I was looking to write a book about everyday fears that feels like a thriller. 

I really wanted to write a book that was suspenseful and that makes you feel things.

"I do have a thin skin, so there are a lot of suspenseful books out there that I can't read. There's enough real suffering in the world. I didn't necessarily want to add to that, but I do love that 'edge of your seat and can't stop turning the pages' feeling.

"I like to read a lot of the domestic-noir-family-dynamics-gone-wrong kind of books. I'm very interested in that. Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband and I think I have a pretty great relationship with my young daughter. But I am fascinated in those connections.

"I'm interested in those ideas of family relationships gone wrong — and people just trying to muddle their way through."

Jessica Westhead's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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