Pandemic Perspectives

Today, we are delighted to welcome Katherine Hall Page back to blog to talk about her new book, and writing during the pandemic.

Katherine Hall Page: My new book, The Body in the Web is not about being in Maine. It’s about not being in Maine. When we closed up on the Point in October 2019, the idea that we wouldn’t be opening up as usual Memorial Day weekend was as far from our minds as many, many other things would turn out to be. Like my series sleuth Faith Fairchild, who also lives in Massachusetts, there were travel restrictions in place. We could go to Deer Isle but coming back meant quarantining. Never have I blessed technology so much as it allowed me to keep in touch with people. Yet, a long distance love affair is heart-breaking, although it can also be heart-affirming. I was soon treasuring times over sixty-three years spent there, recalling people, adventures, misadventures, landscapes of course and books, going way back to Louise Dickinson Rich’s We Took to the Woods up to all the Crime Writers here plus Joe Coomer and Richard Russo. I pulled the Robert McCloskeys from the shelf and thought about Burt Dow, buried in the same cemetery as my parents. I read Millay’s Renascence aloud and imagined myself looking out across the water toward the Island from the top of Mount Battie. It was a way of coping with the fears, and deprivations of the pandemic.

The Body in the Web (the title refers both to spiders and the worldwide one), begins on January 24, 2021, and ends in May 2022. Here are the first sentences:

 “Faith Fairchild set her phone down with the first sigh of relief she had felt for almost eight months…Such was the effect of the call from her husband Tom, the Reverend Thomas Fairchild, with the stunning news that as one of the local VA hospital’s chaplains he was eligible for vaccination and was on his way to get the shot. A simple sentence, a series of words turned the room from the everyday to a rare setting she would always remember as the beginning flicker of hope.”

After what we had all been through starting in late 2020, knowing that the book would look back (my favorite lawn sign from the time was a homemade one I saw, “2020 Make It Stop!”), I wanted to begin with an expression of that hope. Faith Fairchild and family have formed a Pod with son Ben home from college, daughter Amy a senior in high school and husband Tom, all dealing with their lives remotely. Faith’s catering business is suspended. When a close friend’s death is deemed a suicide, Faith must solve what she knows is a murder remotely as well. She can’t go knock on doors, face suspects eye-to-eye. It became a challenge to unmask while masked!

 I kept a daily journal starting in March 2020 during the pandemic, jotting down a few sentences about things happening in our lives and outside the Pod (three—our son under the same roof happily) ‚ what we ate and how I “foraged” for essentials. Once it was safe to be with people and I started the book, everyone had stories to tell—some tragic, but also many about their ways of managing, ingenious, even humorous. Similar to one of the subplots in the book, I learned about a postponed very elaborate wedding, and plan for a honeymoon baby prompting thorny discussions since no one could pick a new date, for either. Biological clock ticking, baby first? I detailed other issues. Unlike paper goods, there were many shortages, that could not have been predicted— thread since we were all stitching up masks, cream cheese! and the search for yeast alternatives. I’m still making Beer Bread, with all sorts of variations—adding cheese, spices.

I spoke to teachers I know about the difficulty of teaching remotely, particularly when it came to art and music. They are now dealing with how much students lost during the time in isolation, not just academic skills, but social skills. Adults also lost the social ones as I was reminded last summer at an in-person gathering when two different people told me they were having trouble making conversation, small talk, or about larger issues. “I got out of the habit,” one said.

We are still talking about Covid and the Pandemic. And always will, dating things from before, during and after as we did during other devastating times—the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr, the Kennedys, and 9/11. We’ll be living with Covid from now on, getting boosters and telling stories to each other, eventually to those younger who didn’t experience it. It is embedded in our institutional memories forever.

There is one memory that will always be a joyful one— the moment after the long, and very familiar, drive north, finally crossing the 1,088-foot bridge spanning Eggemoggin Reach to Deer Isle! We’d made it safe and sound!


Katherine Hall Page is the award-winning writer of the Faith Fairchild series (Wm Morrow/Avon), a recipient of the Agatha for Best First, Best Short Story, and Best Mystery Novel as well as other Agatha, Edgar, Mary Higgins Clark, and Maine Literary Awards nominees. She received Malice Domestic’s Lifetime Achievement Award and another—Crime Master—from the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. The Body in the Web is the 26th in the series. She has also published a cookbook, Have Faith in your Kitchen, and books for YAs and Middle Grade readers. A New Jersey native, she lives in Massachusetts and Maine (part of every year since 1858!).

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2 Responses to Pandemic Perspectives

  1. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    And it’s really not over, although we have easier access to toilet paper now. I tried to look upon the pause as a perfectly legitimate reason to hide in my office. Not that I got anything done. 🙂

  2. Katherine says:

    It’s remarkable to me how little of the pandemic’s consequences are reflected in film and television. I’ve written a mystery series set in Maine during 2018-2021 – the span set in stone by the age of the young sleuth in the first book – and I couldn’t imagine writing ‘20 and ‘21 without full acknowledgement of the grip Covid had on our world.

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