Jenny Knipfer–Author

Best-selling Christian historical fiction author, Jenny Knipfer, shares her books, inspiration, thoughts on life and writing, and book reviews. Purchase Jenny's books, read her blog, or listen to encouraging podcasts, highlighting the life of a writer.

At its core, Under the Weeping Willow is about a mother and a daughter and the secret shaping their rocky relationship. 

Inspiration:

My first inspiration and challenge for writing Under the Weeping Willow sprung from a question: what would it be like, as a daughter, to have a strained relationship with my mother? And what would be the driving force behind it? My imagination and my college courses in psychology helped me out here. Having a very close relationship with my mom, I didn’t have experience to draw from but created a scenario where a strained mother/daughter relationship was a reality. That and the fact of knowing that many of our biggest obstacles in life come from the past. And in Robin and Enid’s case, the secret between them.

Why the subject matter is significant to me:

I’ve lived with depression on and off since my early twenties. I’ve been grateful for the many ways depression can be treated in these modern days, but it always made me wonder. What if I had lived 100 years ago? What would have happened to me, and would I have made it through the many valleys I have walked through. 

So writing a novel with a main character who deals with depression came natural to me. Although, I never suffered from postpartum depression, I had a good grasp on the basics of depression when crafting my character, Robin. 

Alzheimer’s:

Enid, the daughter, and her story picks up when she’s in her sixties and having to put her mother, who has Alzheimer’s, in a nursing home. Enid uncovers her mother’s journals and begins to read them, finding out things about her mother, Robin, that she never knew. This knowledge helps her process through their past, leaving hope for reconciliation before it’s too late. 

My dad passed from Alzheimer’s in 2010, so I write from some experience here as well. I can honestly say that the biggest test of my faith at that time came from watching my father plummet down the rabbit hole of forgetfulness and loss that Alzheimer’s brings. I think many children of parents suffering with this disease walk a similar path. It’s my hope that Enid’s story will touch and encourage someone who might be traveling down that very road. 

🌸What was the last novel you read where the main characters’ trials or journey mirrored something you had gone through or are going through in life?

An Excerpt from Under the Weeping Willow:

Enid
June 1983
I rub my hand over my mother’s words. My throat clenches, and I hiccup, forcing back a sob. A tear lands on the lined page of the diary with a splat. The word “willow” starts to bleed with the moisture. I read through the entry once more.

April 10th, 1977
Dear Diary,
I put the silverware in the breadbox today. I don’t know why. I went to pull a loaf of bread out of the red, tin box to make a sandwich, and instead I pulled out a fork. I haven’t found the bread yet.

Yesterday, I couldn’t recall my phone number, when asked to give it over the phone to the clinic scheduler. Nothing appeared in my mind when I tried to imagine it. I could pull no number out of my magical memory hat. I had to read the number off the label under the receiver cradle. After about an hour, the number suddenly came to me, like I’d been hit with it. Did my memory go on vacation for an hour?

I have been noticing these strange things recently. It frightens me. It’s as if someone else has done these things. I don’t remember moving the bread at all. I try, but only a black hole appears in my mind when I do. That emptiness slowly sucks at me, like a vacuum. One day I fear there may be nothing left to remember.

Maybe I’m going crazy, but I swore I’d never go there again. I see the edge of the pond and feel the dangling willow branches tangle in my hair as if it were yesterday. The water pulls at me like Velcro, clinging, drawing me in. Why can I remember that from so many years ago and not where I put the bread today? I know one thing: They will not put me in an asylum for the mentally deranged. Not again.

I lift my eyes from the diary and look out the window in the sitting room. The willow tree still stands watching over the pond despite having battled several storms and suffering lost limbs. I whiled away many a summer day under its canopy of hanging branches. Mom didn’t like me playing by the willow, and she hated the pond. She was always after Uncle Hal to drain it. I never knew why.

The ink smudges as I swipe at the damp spot on the page of Mom’s diary, and I try to comprehend the words. Crazy… asylum? What could she possibly mean?

I swallow the lump in my throat and try not to be overburdened by guilt.

This was Mom’s first full week in the Dunn County Nursing Health Care Center, a glorified name for a nursing home. I hate that I had to admit her, but she’ll be safe. They won’t treat her like a crazy person. Will they? No, dementia is different. Well, Alzheimer’s the doctor called it. The staff are professionals and can care for her better.

I groan and swipe at my eyes. I can tell myself any number of things to justify my mother being tucked away like an old rag doll, but at the bottom of the justification lies the fact that I am the one who brought her there.

I sigh and close the diary, placing it back by her wingback recliner. We can’t have a repeat of this last winter. The neighbor had caught her bewildered and walking down the road in the middle of January with no coat on. She could have died.

“Enie! Where are you?”
“In here!” I shout at my husband, Clive.
I hear his footsteps and in seconds he rounds the corner of

the old farmhouse kitchen and stands in the large opening to the sitting room. I sit up straighter in Mom’s gold, velvet, upholstered recliner. Too bad there wasn’t room for her chair at the nursing home.

“Thought I’d stop by and see if you need some help.”

His solid, brown eyes hold sympathy. He leans against the wood trim accenting the doorway. His slouchy shirt and Levi’s give him a relaxed appearance. A smile warms his face. He knows how hard it’s been for me, moving Mom. I smile the best I can in return, studying his familiar, unconventionally handsome face.

Clive’s eyes are evenly spaced under contained brows of the same shade, but his face is rather full. I suppose some would call him pudgy, but I like that he’s not skin and bones. He’s stocky and thick. Reliable.

“No. Just collecting a few trinkets to add to Mom’s room to make it feel homey.”

I hide the journal in the cleft of the chair cushion. I don’t want to talk to Clive about what I’ve found. Not yet anyway. I shouldn’t even be reading her private diaries, but I can’t help it. I would have found and read them one day, after she passed. Why is now so different? She’s as good as gone. Her memories have flown away, and isn’t that all that we are—memories?

Thank you for reading!!! J

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