Monday: Atherton native Adrienne McDonnell to discuss her debut novel


By Joshua Falk

Special to The Almanac

Adrienne McDonnell, a native of Atherton and a graduate of Menlo-Atherton High School, will give a talk at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park on Monday, Aug. 2, about her first published novel, "The Doctor and the Diva," as part of a nine-city book tour.

The Kepler's talk begins at 7:30 p.m. at 1010 El Camino Real, near Santa Cruz Avenue.

The book tour will also include events in New York, Seattle, Madison, Connecticut, and several cities in California.

"The Doctor and the Diva" is the story of an opera singer, Erika von Kessler, who decides to leave her prominent Boston husband in order to pursue an opera career in Italy after struggling for years to get pregnant.

Ms. McDonnell drew inspiration for the plot from her son's paternal great-great grandmother, who left her child and wealthy husband in Boston to pursue an opera career in Italy in the early 20th century. Ms. McDonnell explored this family history using family letters and by interviewing elderly relatives.

"I couldn't decide if I wanted to applaud her courage or if I thought it was just a heartbreaking story that she left her little boy," Ms. McDonnell said in an interview.

"The Doctor and the Diva" is Ms. McDonnell's third novel, but her first to be published.

"I'm a real role model for people who want to persist as writers," she said. "I knew I was coming so close that I knew I had to get over the disappointment and get onto the next one."

Each of her other two novels -- both of which remain unpublished -- took five years to write, while "The Doctor and the Diva" took six.

Ms. McDonnell has previously taught literature and fiction writing at the University of California at Berkeley and led writing workshops for adults through UC Berkeley Extension and the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

She was a children's librarian at the Boston Public Library, where she will speak on Tuesday, July 27. She currently lives in Kensington, which is near Berkeley.

Click here for more information from Kepler's.

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