Following Disasters

Following Disasters by [McCabe, Nancy]

This week’s other featured book, “In Pursuit: The Hunt for the Beltway Snipers,” by David Reichenbaugh, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the First Tuesday Replay. Or, just click the author’s name on our Authors page.


THE BOOK: “Following Disasters.”


THE AUTHOR:  Nancy McCabe.

THE EDITOR: Jon Roemer.

THE PUBLISHER: Outpost 19.

SUMMARY: On her twenty-first birthday, Maggie Owen receives an unusual birthday gift: a house. That same day, the house’s owner, her aunt, dies. For three years, Maggie has been fleeing her childhood demons: the deaths of her parents, estrangement from her terminally-ill aunt, and a betrayal by her best friend. But now her career on the road, following natural disasters in temporary insurance claims offices, ends abruptly as Maggie returns home to face her past. But why does the house hold a mysterious spell over her? Why does she have the persistent feeling that her aunt is haunting her? Why did her aunt lie to her about the circumstances of her parents’ deaths? Who is the ghost child that may be hanging around the house? And what’s with the guy next door who seems so hostile toward her? FOLLOWING DISASTERS is tightly woven ghost story that raises questions about legacies and their influence on our choices.

THE BACK STORY: One of my favorite aunts died of lupus when I was young, and for many years I could have sworn that her ghost was haunting me, creating coincidences in my life, flashing lights in my house, leading me to the right books at the right moment, planting in me one of her most poignant desires, to be a mother. Of course none of this sounds particularly supernatural (except maybe the flashing lights, but there was probably some electrical issue.) But after I decided, in my thirties, to adopt and raise a daughter as a single parent—a choice I knew would have thrilled my aunt—that sense of being haunted disappeared. But the questions lingered about the ways that the past follows us, the ways our own desires and goals can be shaped by those of the people who came before us, and I wanted to write about that.
WHY THIS TITLE?: Following a number of disastrous losses in her life, Maggie is literally following disasters in her job for an insurance company that deals with disaster claims. One of the book’s central questions is, how do we recover from difficult experiences and find hope and redemption?
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I borrowed from a lot of genres in constructing the story—the ghost story, the romance novel, the mystery—and while Following Disasters is ultimately a literary novel that plays with those genres, it has appealed to both literary audiences and audiences who are drawn to the genres it borrows from.


How great would it be to inherit, unexpectedly, a wonderful large Victorian house when you turned twenty-one? Maggie-Kate is unsure if it’s a blessing or a curse. Following Disasters is a novel that offers thrilling wisdom–about family, friendship, and romance. This is a true and important book, sometimes haunting, that is worth any reader’s time.” — Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Abundance, a Novel of Marie-Antoinette andAhab’s Wife.“

A masterfully told story of betrayal and dislocation vibrantly narrated through the voices of an odd-ball aunt and her eccentric niece, Following Disasters is at once a mystery, a love story, and a narrative of healing. Nancy McCabe’s most recent novel explores that deepest human yearning: our need to belong. I couldn’t put it down.” ― Elaine Neil Orr, author of A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa.

Following Disasters is really about fleeing the disasters of our past, and, finally, facing them. This beautiful novel shows how the ghosts of the past will quietly torment us until we confront them head on. You’ll be haunted by the brave, struggling Maggie long after you turn the final page―I certainly have been.” ― Katrina Kittle, author of Blessings of the Animals.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Like my character Maggie, I’m from Kansas but now live in northwestern Pennsylvania, where I teach at a campus of the University of Pittsburgh. I adopted my daughter from China twenty-one years ago, and we’ve been back to visit several times. Two of my books deal with adoption and China travel, Meeting Sophie: A Memoir of Adoption and Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge: A Journey to my Daughter’s Birthplace in China. I combined my love of travel and literature in another book, From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood. That book, like Following Disasters also strongly influenced by my aunt and the books she passed in to me. That book is about rereading, as an adult, favorite girls’ books and traveling to tourist sites related to them. I’m working on more fiction and have a memoir in essays forthcoming next fall, for the moment titled Can This Troubled Marriage be Saved: A Memoir. The chapters use borrowed forms to explore my youthful marriage: a women’s magazine quiz, a curriculum guide, Bible study notes, a self help article, etc. I love trying new things, am writing this with a broken arm because of a recent ill-fated tubing experience, do lots of bicycling and am in a clogging group. I also teach for the Spalding University School of Creative and Professional Writing low residency MFA program in Kentucky, an incredibly innovative program that really fuels my own creativity.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: I originally saw the end of Following Disasters as somewhat ambiguous, a bit of a commentary on social conventions and expectations, but most readers have seen it as a happy one. I love to hear arguments for either interpretation and have through reader response, come to see it very differently. I’ve also been honored that readers with Lupus have thanked me for writing about a disease that isn’t often represented in literature.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
PRICE: $16.00 (discounted to $10.44 on Amazon)

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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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