Missouri-Born Writer Explores Brotherhood, Survival, and Political Divides in New Novel | KCUR 89.3



The Fehler family isn’t quite a fictional version of the family Melissa Scholes Young grew up in. But like the Fehlers, his family ran a fourth-generation pest control business.

The fictitious family created by Scholes Young lives in Cape Girardeau, Missouri; his own family is from Hannibal, Missouri, 200 miles away.

Another difference is that novelist Scholes Young is an only child; she has two brothers. As for the extermination business, she found herself buried under files rather than dragging herself through crawl spaces like her brothers did.

In her novel, the family-owned pest control business falls into the hands of four girls – the “bug girls” as they call themselves.

“I was fascinated by the history of the fellowship and the meaning of bonds in a family business,” says Scholes Young from her home in Washington, DC, where she teaches at American University. “I wrote to the Fehler sisters as a sort of gift for myself. What would it look like if the estate was sorted by women, if there was no male heir? “

His third novel, The Beehive, is not just the story of four sisters and their mother overcoming the sudden death of the “head” of the family, but a class story in a politically divided Midwestern town during the Great Recession.

Scholes Young says sisters are a riff of Louisa May Alcott’s March family Little woman. Their age ranges from teens to their early twenties, with the practical elder, the introspective artist, the knockout, and the tomboy.

Like the March sisters and their mother, the Fehlers are strapped for cash. In
in the case of the Fehlers, this is due to medical bankruptcy and the mismanagement of the business by their father just before his death.

“I don’t think it’s a perfect story at all, but some of what I love about Little woman it’s also a matriarchal family structure, ”says Scholes Young. “And what you see are people within the family structure pushing against the structure and against the expectations of society about how women should behave, how women can or cannot support themselves. needs.”

The Fehler women spend months making sense of the father’s crumbling finances, most of which he has kept a secret, even from his wife, Grace.

Grace’s reaction to this secrecy and uncertainty during her marriage was to develop survival skills, a hobby also sometimes referred to as “preparation” – like preparing for a natural disaster, an apocalypse or maybe a civil war.

“Preparation and survivalism allowed me to question these questions of power and identity, of political structures, of polarized communities and also of connections within this enterprise,” explains Scholes Young.

She set out to find this niche group of Americans, even attending a prep camp in North Carolina. Scholes Young says she was surprised to find that women lead a lot of groups and that the entire company has a conservationist bent, with talks about solar energy and water conservation.

“It wasn’t what I expected, and I learned a lot about the line between being prepared for something and then crossing it, and that sort of dark side of individualism that I’m afraid means that you can dehumanize someone and therefore have a lot of hatred towards them and blame towards them rather than compassion towards them, ”says Scholes Young.

As Grace’s character gradually finds her place after her husband, she lets go of much of the paranoia that had driven her to pack “Bug Out Bags” for her daughters – bags they could grab at any time if. the walls were literally falling around them.

Much of the story is about community – like finding strength by working together and protecting the weak. Scholes Young sees similar themes in the work of fellow native Hannibal, Mark Twain.

It includes many references to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which she says is often misinterpreted as a children’s story about playing crochet and fishing.

“I think Huckleberry finn is a much darker book than you think, and I also think it’s a story with so many answers about freedom, what is the price of freedom, what you are willing to do to be free, and what it means to actually have a free mind and that kind of freedom, ”says Scholes Young.

The Fehler sisters agree that the classic contains worlds of lessons about freedom and acts as a manual and “remedy for the ills of American life,” as Scholes Young writes near the end of the book. The Beehive.

In conclusion, each of the sisters and their mother have found a freedom that they did not know at the beginning of the novel, although Scholes Young says that she does not always agree with the choices they made for it. arrive.

She hopes that as the country and the Midwest in particular remain politically and ideologically divided, the novel will provide a safe framework for discussions on divisive topics.

It is one of the charms of art, especially stories. Scholes Young says she might not have regular access to people who live very differently than she does, but she can read about them.

She said, “I can be around their table and I can understand where they are coming from, can’t I? And what they have inherited from their beliefs, their politics and their religion, but also what they are fighting against.


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