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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
As a teenager, Lisa Halliday sat on the steps of the Medfield Public Library, waiting for its doors to open. This was a regular occurrence for Halliday, who has since moved abroad. She recently visited the library, though, reminiscing about the spots where she used to read and the room where she had her college interview.
Halliday also used this trip down memory lane to inquire about her debut novel, “Asymmetry,” of which the library was unaware.
After doing some research on the praised debut, library director Meena Jain excitedly invited Halliday to come to the library for a book reading.
On April 24, Halliday, along with her husband, nine-month-old daughter, parents, and in-laws, visited the library and read excerpts from her novel to an enormous crowd.
“It’s an unusual novel,” Halliday admitted, “in that it doesn’t have a beginning, middle, and end. But for me, that’s the sort of book I like to read: one that challenges our sense of what a novel is and what a novel can do.”
Split into three parts, “Asymmetry” explores the lives of Alice, a young editorial assistant in New York City during the first years of the Iraq War, who begins a relationship with a much older and well-established author; Amar, an Iraqi-American man, who spends time reflecting on his life while detained in London’s Heathrow airport; and Ezra, the author from the first part, whose section is written in the form of a transcript of a radio interview.
“The first part is, ostensibly, very similar to my own experience,” Halliday said, recalling her own journey in Manhattan’s publishing industry as a 25-year-old.
“Throughout that time, I had a sense of what was happening in other parts of the world, and I had an almost guilty sense of needing to know more about what was happening and what role America played in the rest of the world,” she said.
“So, the second part of the book grew almost out of a desire to be more conscientious about what it’s like in the rest of the world. It really was a challenge to myself to see if I could write about someone seemingly very different from me, whereas in the first part of the book, the character is seemingly very similar to me.”
However, Halliday is more alike to Amar than one would originally guess. Like the Iraqi-American, Halliday has experienced detainment at Heathrow Airport after the airport suspected she was taking advantage of England’s health care system.
Although it was clearly a misunderstanding, as Halliday was making frequent trips to England to visit her boyfriend (now husband), she chronicled everything she could remember about the incident and saved the notes.
The audience was, of course, happy to hear, too, that Medfield made such a lasting impact on Halliday and her career as a writer.
“I tell everyone that I was really, really lucky to grow up in Medfield because the school system is just amazing,” said Halliday. “I feel so incredibly lucky because I think people pay a lot of money for education elsewhere, and if you live in Medfield, you just have it. It just set me on a track in life, and I almost feel sort of nervous to think when I think of how it might have gone another way. I’m so grateful to my parents for choosing Medfield.”
As those in town know, the public school system continues to offer outstanding resources for students. Perhaps in the coming years, Medfield will see more of its residents join Halliday in becoming outstanding authors from this little corner of Norfolk County.