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September Book Club Choice

One Foot Wrong by Sofie Laguna

Cover of One Foot Wrong

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Nominated for the prestigious literary prizes, One Foot Wrong is unlike any book you will have read before. Seen through the eyes of a child, Hester - a girl of few words, verbally and physically abused by her parents, confined to her house, her only friends inanimate objects: Tree, Axe, Spoon - the story follows her unique perspective of the world. Then one day her parents are forced to send her to school and she discovers a whole new world outside the one she knew.
Challenging the boundaries of right and wrong, sanity and madness, friendship, love and justice, Hester’s story is often dark and harrowing, but the impact of her distinctive voice and way of seeing the world is beautiful and inspiring.

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Author Q&A

Q. How hard was it to make the transition from writing children’s books to an adult novel?
Lisa Kormac

A. I was never actually conscious of making any transition. The process for writing any book is not, for me, dependent on the age of the readership, but on the demands of the character. Every character comes with limitations – and Hester had hers. Her vocabulary was not extensive, she had a particular way of understanding her world – but every character has their quirks – and that is what shapes the process – not the market for the book. I wrote One Foot Wrong in between writing books for children but I was never aware of any marked transition. Every book is a unique writing experience, but it is not the age of the readership which dictates this. Oh dear, I am repeating myself and rambling I fear – I hope you get what I am trying to say (Hester has a way of things so much better than I do at times!)

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Q. What has been your most memorable reaction to your book from a reader – positive or negative or surprising?
Hillary Greenall, London

A. I really appreciate the passionate responses – where people are awed and relish the end of the book as much I do. I love it when a reader experiences a catharsis along with Hester. Some librarians, particularly librarians more familiar with my books for children, are shocked and upset by the book. My sister refuses to read it because she knows without a doubt it will give her nightmares. I don’t mind!

Q. Given that your background is as the author of children’s picture books, was that the starting point for the book - creating the character of Hester with this uniquely visual perspective of the world, where her outlet for expression is pictures and drawings?
Valerie Russell, London

A. The starting point for the book was the idea of this girl who is abused and force-fed who ultimately gets her revenge by eating her parents. The pictures, her artistry, her vision – all came later as I discovered the character. I do ‘think in pictures’ - which does explain my background in picture book writing, and hester’s way of surviving. She ‘thinks in pictures’ too. I often see themes of creative expression emerging in my work – particularly drawing and painting. My mother is a visual artist – perhaps it is in my blood...

Q. Did you set out to write a book about a hard subject matter? And was it a difficult book to write in that respect?
K. Coutts, Glasgow

A. Surprisingly it was not such a difficult book to write in that respect. On the contrary, it was quite liberating. The incest scenes were uncomfortable for me – and I am sure that I re-worked them the least, for obvious reasons – but most of the rest came easily and naturally (I know, disturbing...). I never consciously thought about how to make the book dark and difficult, I just relaxed and let Hester do the work. I am not sure where some of the images came from – the pictures on the wall of old-style executions for example, and the hanging room itself. I have never even imagined such a thing before. But it was fun not setting any limitations on myself as far as the content went. It felt like I was breaking some kind of internal set of rules, and it made me realize that there really are no limits when it comes to writing.

Q. Do you see Hester’s actions at the end of the novel as being inevitable or justified?
B. Cooper, Melbourne, Australia

A. I don’t see it as necessarily inevitable – Hester could have chosen a different path – but was it justified? Yes perhaps it was justified, although I have never really thought about it in these moral terms. I could understand what she did, and I wanted her to do it, and I was glad she did it. Was it right? I don’t know. Is it ever right to kill? I don’t feel equipped to answer – I only know I wanted her to do it. But these characters are surely aspects of my own psyche – I would never condone murder – or would I? Maybe there are circumstances where it makes a kind of sense, in stories like Hester’s...Now you have me thinking. I really wanted what was best for Hester – she had suffered so much – if killing them would set her free, and make her whole, then they would have to go. In Hester’s case, their death was the right thing – and the right thing for my story, and for me as the writer.


Book Club Reviews

This star review was by Anne Cater of United Kingdom.

Sofie Laguna is an Australian novelist, this is her first adult fiction book. It's incredibly difficult to relay the emotions that this story evoked for me. The style, the language and the story is unlike anything I've come across before. The nearest comparison, for those that want one, would be Emma Donoghue's 'Room' - if only for the child narrator and the sparse language. The story starts with Hester as a small girl - an unwanted small girl who is kept in isolation by her fanatical, religious parents. Hester refers to her parents as Boot and Sack - they've made it clear that they never wanted her and have ensured that she knows nothing except life within their own four walls. Hester's language is mechanical and straight to the point - she has never been taught to read but has two religious books that she refers to at all times. Hester's 'friends' are the tree outside her window, the door, the knife, the pot, the axe and the fire. Her only comfort is the family cat - named Cat. Hester's narrative is hypnotic at times, it is also stark and pulls no punches. There is no lead-in to the incidents of abuse that she describes, they are just occurrences to Hester, so are related in the same, quite emotionless way. Eventually Hester goes out into the wider world, it is not a success, but whilst out there, she forms a couple of almost normal relationships; with her Grandmother and with another small girl, Mary. Despite her circumstances, Hester is a joyful character, with every new discovery a big adventure for her. Her parents, however, are cruel and wicked and clearly suffering from mental illness. Her Father has flashes of kindness, followed by incidents of terrible abusive behaviour. Harrowing, yet sensitive, the story builds up to it's horrific ending - shocking, yet almost inevitable.Anne Cater, United Kingdom

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