Behind the Book
The Story Behind The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
In 2007, I was twenty-four. I had just taken and passed the bar exam. I was admitted to practice on a trillion-dollar terror financing lawsuit, which required months of depositions of thousands of terror victims in the United States and in Israel.
One day, during a trip to New York for a hearing, I became involved in a conversation about my work—that happened often with a job like mine. The woman I spoke to was immediately interested. Her teenage daughter had been in an accident with her friends, and was the only survivor. She suffered from PTSD, which I knew all too much about, thanks to my work.
As this woman spoke to me about a lawsuit she and her husband were considering against the owner of the property, a girl appeared behind her, and I was immediately struck by her presence. The girl was beautiful but haunted, somehow.
Her mother and I exchanged information, and I agreed to get her a referral to another lawyer who'd be well-equipped to take on their case. But when the woman turned to leave, the girl gave me a look that stopped me cold. A look that told me there was more to her story than anyone knew.
I wondered what it was.
Fast forward to May 14th, 2009. I was in New York again, not for a hearing but for my brother's college graduation. After the ceremony, something was mentioned that instantly made me think of that girl. I wondered what had happened to her.
Later that day, I called the number that the woman gave me, but it was out of service. I looked up her name, too, but couldn't find her listed anywhere.
I began writing the first words of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer that night. I wrote until five p.m. the next day, when I had 5,000 words. The story grew, with that girl at its center. I would never use her real name, so she became Mara; the name means "bitterness" in Hebrew.
A few weeks later, I began to receive packages.
Pictures of a collapsed building. A sketchbook of drawings. I kept writing. What emerged was a story told in artifacts and mementos, from a life that didn't seem to exist in the world we knew but just beneath it. I'm still receiving envelopes and packages.
And one day, I received a letter from a teenage girl. What it said was obviously impossible.
But I guess you never really know.