The Millions

Making Sense of Trauma: The Millions Interviews Melanie Abrams

The title of Melanie Abrams’s second novel, Meadowlark, evokes something peaceful, tranquil. From the first page, however, readers are thrown into a series of increasingly volatile scenarios. It soon becomes clear that the idea of tranquility, while indeed present in the novel, is always just out of reach, buried under the complexity of power, cults, motherhood, and childhood trauma. The tension in the book has an immediacy to it that might prompt most readers to speed along, riding the fast-paced narrative to its stirring climax. To do so, though, would risk missing an intricately layered tale that forces us to untangle trust from obligation, care from fear, and devotion from affection.

In her debut novel, Playing, Abrams tackled the lofty subject of kink and alternative sexuality with precision and subtlety. Here we get that same meticulous eye turned to the world of spiritual/communal life and alternative parenting.

I caught up with Abrams via Zoom, and our discussion, through its medium of isolation and social distance, felt very much attuned to the current chaos of the world around us.

The Millions: In the novel, two of the main characters, Simrin and Arjun, grew up on a compound called Ananda. Throughout the book, the reader can’t help but think about what is or isn’t a cult. By the novel’s end, we may have an idea of what is, but we’re still unclear on what isn’t. Do you think of Ananda as a cult?

I thought a lot about this both during the writing of the book

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