February 10, 2013

Author Q&A: Great 'Promise'

Maine native Priscille Sibley's acclaimed debut tells the story of a family trying to decide the fate of their comatose – and pregnant – loved one.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

As a registered nurse, Priscille Sibley has unique insight into the medical world. She has cared for patients in vegetative states, and seen the anguish of families as they wrestle with moral and medical decisions involving life support.

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Priscelle Sibley


PRISCILLE SIBLEY will read and talk about her book from 1 to 3 p.m. May 18 at Sherman's Maine Books and Stationary, 128 Main St., Freeport.

Sibley's personal experiences led directly to her debut novel, "The Promise of Stardust." In her story, a woman suffers a devastating brain injury, and just as her caregivers and family are about to take her off life support, they find out she is pregnant. She left a living will, but expressed desire to have a child.

That dilemma leaves her family divided.

"This is a love story to the core," said Sibley, a Maine native now living and working in nursing in New Jersey. "Nobody is the bad guy. Everybody is trying to do what is right for her. But people seriously disagree about these things."

Given that Sibley grew up in South Portland and worked at Maine Medical Center, it is natural that she sets part of her book in Maine -- in Freeport, to be precise.

The hospital in the book is called Longfellow Memorial, but Sibley is quick to point out that it is not modeled after Maine Med or based on any of the people or experiences she knew or had while working there.

There is another important reason she set her book in Maine. Many states have laws that prohibit a woman from being taken off life support if she is pregnant. Maine is not one of them.

For that reason, as well as her familiarity with the state, she set her book here.

Q: Before we get into the book, I want to talk to you about your personal story. You were born and raised in Maine?

A: I was born in Sanford, although I don't remember living there. My father moved to Portland after I was a few weeks old, and worked for the newspaper. I grew up in South Portland, went to high school there and graduated in 1976.

Afterwards, I went away to school, I moved back after college and worked at Maine Med for a few years. Then I got married and I moved away again. I consider myself a Mainer living in exile. My heart is always there.

Q: How did growing up in Maine influence you, your writing or this story?

A: Well, the story takes place in Maine, mostly because if I am going to spend that much time with a book, I want it to be someplace I like. Maine is still in my heart. As a kid, I spent a lot of time at the ocean. I used to ride my bike out to Portland Head Light every day. I would write a journal, but I wasn't thinking of being a writer. I don't think I ever considered being a writer as a kid, at least cognitively.

Q: Your family has a history with our newspaper?

A: My grandfather, he was assistant manger of circulation. He retired in 1965, I think. My father worked for the newspaper in one capacity or another his entire life. He was a paper boy, and when he was in Sanford he was a district manager. Then he went to work in Portland and worked his way up to being director of the circulation department. The phone would ring on Sunday because someone didn't get the paper, and my father would be the one to go out and deliver it to them.

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