A timeless story of mothers and daughters with a razor-sharp 21st century twist, this heart-wrenching debut for fans of Kimberly McCreight (Reconstructing Amelia) and Liane Moriarity (Big Little Lies) will make you question how you and your family spend time online.
With Saving Phoebe Murrow, acclaimed writer and longtime children’s activist Herta Feely introduces readers to Isabel Murrow: a suburban mother precariously balancing her busy career as a D.C. lawyer and her family, who she would do anything to protect. In a world of bullies and temptations, all Isabel wants is to keep her thirteen-year-old daughter, Phoebe, safe. But with her hectic schedule, Isabel fails to recognize another mother’s mounting fury and the danger her daughter faces by flirting with a mysterious boy online. A cyber-bullying incident aimed at Phoebe, with horrific consequences, finally pushes Isabel to the edge.
Smartly paced and equal parts shocking and sadly familiar, Saving Phoebe Murrow is a riveting addition to the contemporary women’s fiction landscape that will resonate with parents, teens, and anyone compelled by timely and beautifully crafted stories.
It’s out! Finally! What a thrill. Thanks to Liza Jane Chronicles for kicking off the launch and blog tour of my just released novel, Saving Phoebe Murrow.
I admit it’s been quite a journey…from that moment on January 10, 2008, when I first read the tragic story in the Washington Post about 13-year-old Megan Meier committing suicide after a cyber-bullying episode led by a phony guy on MySpace…to the moment that I decided to write a novel inspired by that story in 2011…to the moment in 2015 that two publishers offered to publish it, Upper Hand Press (US) and Twenty7 Books (UK). And now, in 2016, it’s in print.
I suppose what’s amazing and what many of you can appreciate is how long it can take from the kernel of an idea to a book in print. Never mind the highs and lows along the way.
Back to that moment in 2008. I was shocked that a mom posed as a guy and led the cyber-bullying charge. How could a mother (Lori Drew) do that to a 13-year-old girl? I cut the piece out of the Post and kept it in a file folder. Then at the end of the same year, I read a short piece in that important magazine we all read in the grocery line: People! I guarantee, it is a reliable source. And there, in a December 2008 issue, was the headline: “A Cyberbully Convicted,” alongside a photo of Lori Drew walking beside her daughter, Sarah, once one of Megan’s friends, and her lawyer, heading into court. But, in fact, Lori Drew wasn’t convicted! She went scot-free!
By 2011, several characters had begun to form in my mind. Isabel, the mother of Phoebe, and Sandy, the mother of Phoebe’s best friend, Jessie. I knew the two women didn’t like each other, but I didn’t know why. And they were getting in the way of their daughters’ friendship. So I set out to find out what was going on. I only knew how the story began and ended. Very little about the in-between.
I did know that with the advent of the Internet and social media, cyber-bullying had become a real problem. The difficulty of mother-daughter relationships, the fragility of teen relationships, cutting, these were all issues that emerged as I wrote.
I hope you enjoy the novel and I’d love to hear from you at www.hertafeely.com!
WARNING….extremely intense and will cause goose bumps and an accelerated heart beat!
Phoebe fought back her tears. She was struggling to make sense of the fact that her mother had called the cops. Now she knew for certain that Jessie and Shane had been right. But Shane had also accused her of having been complicit in Mr. and Mrs. Littleton’s arrest. Why can’t you just admit it, he’d said. And yet there was nothing to admit, she hadn’t told her mother! Worst of all, he was no longer interested in meeting her and he WASN’T coming to her party! She’d NEVER get to know him. She’d never be a “10” in his eyes! And now everyone would HATE her for what her mother had done.
She fetched the box cutter and began marching around the room. What could she say? How could she defend herself? She ran her thumb across the blade’s sharp edge, then returned to her computer on the bed and laid the box cutter beside it. She would announce on Facebook that she was sorry, very sorry, but she couldn’t be held responsible for her mother.
Before she typed a single word, there in broad daylight, posted on her Facebook Wall, she saw that all sorts of people were slamming her. Messages from girls and boys, some she hardly knew. A couple she didn’t know at all. What a loser. Glad you’re not my “friend.” Several accused her of tattling to her mother about the drinking and called her mother “sick” for calling the police.
Oh, please, not again, Phoebe thought, she couldn’t take another year like the last one. She just couldn’t, and this was definitely worse.
How low! You are such a piece of trash!
Phoebe gaped at the words then defended herself once more, saying that she absolutely did not say anything to her mom about drinking at the Littleton’s party. At once a post appeared from Vanessa, a former Woodmont school friend of hers who she hadn’t seen since the summer: Your mom did that? If I were you, I’d leave home or…slash my wrists! Get it?
Somewhere in the distance the phone rang, but Phoebe refused to answer it, certain it was her mother. What could she possibly say that would make a difference? The damage had been done.
The words on the screen became a grating noise in Phoebe’s head. She closed her eyes and covered her ears. This can’t be happening. Make it stop. Please! And where was her friend Emma? She knew she could count on her. But the slights and insults kept coming.
Her hand flew to her mouth when she read: The world would be better off without you. She might have expected something this cruel from Skyla or some of the others, but not Shane. No, not Shane.
∙ ● ∙ ● ∙ ● ∙
Isabel maneuvered the car along the curves of Rock Creek Parkway. She pressed harder on the gas pedal, allowing the speedometer to climb well past the speed limit. Half an eye on the road, she kept the other on her iPhone. “Hell’s bells,” she said aloud, fumbling with the icons, touching the wrong one, banging “end,” then striking another. Finally, she tapped her husband Ron’s name again and listened to the phone’s endless ring.
“Damn it,” she said viciously, “answer the fucking phone.”
A feeling of dread lodged itself in Isabel’s gut, and a sense of foreboding and darkness galloped through her mind. One moment it was the certainty that something bad had happened to Phoebe, and in the next the irrevocable fact that only minutes earlier she’d escaped the policeman, who couldn’t be far behind.
She looked into the rearview mirror every few seconds, knowing that when he or another cop caught up to her there’d be hell to pay. How would she talk her way out of this? Could she be disbarred? She only knew that she had to get home and make sure Phoebe hadn’t resorted to anything drastic. Anything, God forbid, irreversible. Then she remembered something she’d read on the Internet about cutting: the worst thing of all about self-injury is that it is strongly connected to later suicide attempts and death by suicide. No, no, no, she told herself. NO!
Concentrating, watching the car lap up the road, she chased the thought from her mind.
Once more, she tried the home number. But no one answered. The gibbous moon continued to stare down at her with its mocking smile.
GET TO KNOW HERTA B. FEELY
Herta Feely is a writer, full-time editor, and the co-founder of Safe Kids Worldwide. Her short stories and memoir have been published in anthologies and literary journals, including The Sun, Lullwater Review, The Griffin, Provincetown Arts, and Big Muddy. In the wake of the James Frey scandal, Feely edited and published the anthology, Confessions: Fact or Fiction? Awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and an Artist in Literature Fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for The Trials of Serra Blue, she has also received an award from American Independent Writers for best published personal essay for a piece on immigration. Feely is a graduate of UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University. She has two grown sons and lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and cats. Connect with Herta on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and her website: http://www.hertafeely.com/