In her novel, Words Falling like Water, Sonya Vaughn catalogs the commonplace
transactions made between a husband and wife: marriage vows, raising a child, paying a mortgage, advancing careers and talking out problems. Her protagonist
Lily addresses such marital problems as the effects of job stress and loss on a
relationship, divorce, bankruptcy, grief, loneliness and heartbreak. These are the center of Sonya’s absorbing novel based on true events.
As Lily’s career in the auto industry moves along and her failing marriage slows, she is often the one giving life to others: her husband who is unemployed, her young son who is very dependent on her and her teammates at work who fear being a part of a major layoff. They constantly make demands of her for their needs.
This is a story of intersections: from an inevitable place and time in the deteriorating auto industry in Michigan to her private hell with an unemployed husband who has given up on life and moved in to their basement. She is in a fearful pressure cooker. As a project manager for the largest auto industry corporation at the peak of the most recessionary years in this country’s
recent history she is catapulted into a life on the edge. Her flawed devotion to her work and her
family demands create more havoc, yet she shows us strengths we can admire as
we root for in every unfolding chapter.
In its heyday, this automotive giant was king in the industry and led the world from its plants in Michigan with cars made in the United States. Jobs have now moved overseas and the impact of this on Lily and her team is illustrated with their Indian counterpart’s communications – or lack of – as the tension mounts in the story.
Lily is surrounded by her supportive but combative sister and her loving but skeptical parents when it comes to conversations about her husband and her job situation,
Her private and public life moves for long stretches on two separate but
intertwined tracks. Lily has a simpler way of describing how she sees herself – a proud, obsessive, idiosyncratic woman. Someone she loathes and loves and is trying
The cold facts of a pending layoff, a divorce that is inevitable and a bankruptcy or short sale on her home continue to pull her down relentlessly. With all her anger and guilt over not being available for her son as much as she would like to be, and no support from her husband with the child care, Lily finds at times an unexpected surge of relief in a relationship with a male counterpart at work.
The book often deals with sudden spikes of self-consciousness for Lily and you often wonder how she will stay strong, persevere and escape this excruciating place of torment at work dealing daily with an obstinate and insensitive boss. One that requires her to help him do his dirty work of letting go of workers she admires and enjoys.
Her quiet faith based pursuit for agood life for her and her son is a bright light as she chases her quest for a spiritual life she has not known but yearns to have. Over the course of the book, her growth enhances her but her idiosyncrasies stifle her in other ways. She is so afraid things won’t turn out right, she literally sees herself in poverty as a bag lady if she loses her job
and her home, and if her husband does not get another job and come out of the
Linked destinies of Lily and her male co-worker friend from California who is enthralled with her and determined to help her get out of her situation allows her to maintain her dignity despite
her neediness. While her devotion to her faithful sister and her loving young son help keep her spirits alive.
Vaughn gives us vivid characters and a thorough insight into the sadness of the auto industry prior to the bankruptcy and bailout of recent years where so many were devastated. She fills in the blanks for the rest of the story. There are poignant moments when
family and friends help pull the narrative along. Despite the overall issues that almost devour
Lily, there are solutions and blessings.
In Words Falling like Water we find the author’s escape from Michigan to tell her real life story and family history in a fictional way even if she can never really escape the truth. Thisis a work of huge magnitude for anyone who has a connection to loss in their personal or private life. It is also critical to all of us who grew up in Michigan and have family or friends in there who have survived the auto industry of yesterday, only to see it coming back in a strong way today. We want the story of our beloved Michigan to be told. Vaughn has done that for us.