Victor LaValle, Author of Lucretia and the Kroons, on the Magic of Childhood Friendships
Editor's Note: Victor LaValle is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Big Machine and The Ecstatic, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Here he discusses his inspiration for Lucretia and the Kroons, a fantastical novella about a young girl's journey into a dark netherworld to find her missing best friend.
When my kid sister was eleven, her best friend Dee suffered and died from childhood leukemia. At the end of her life my sister was Dee's only friend. Dee was a sweet girl who lived across the street. By the end she had very little hair and was weak, quite pale. Most of the other kids in the neighborhood treated her badly. They made fun of how she looked, or the fact that she couldn't run around like everyone else. But my sister and Dee just bonded. Dee would come to our house and play with my sister for hours. Sometimes they might sit outside, but only on the sidewalk directly in front of our place. I was ten years older, but I couldn't help but notice their bond. They loved each other as deeply as two friends ever could. I never forgot their closeness.
Recently thoughts of their friendship have returned to me. I'm a new father of a one-year-old and the idea of childhood friendships, of that rare and true bonding that sometimes happens when we're young, has been on my mind. I wanted to write a story that honored the way such friendships can feel epic, almost mythical, when we're children. And I couldn't think of a better way to capture that feeling than to write a story about two young girls, Lucretia and her best friend Sunny. Sunny is very sick and Lucretia will do anything to save her. Trying to do that takes these two girls to a place beyond anything they could imagine. But they'll risk it for one another. This story is partly an homage to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and a kind of prequel to my upcoming novel, The Devil in Silver, but really it's a tribute to the commitment and grace of two best friends.