“I’m a Luddite who wrote about tech. I can’t even turn on my own TV,” jokes Helen Schulman, the New York Times bestselling author of This Beautiful Life, about her new novel, Come with Me (HarperCollins, Nov.).
Set in Silicon Valley, the new novel is told from multiple points of view. There’s that of Amy, who works for a 19-year-old genius who created an algorithm that may allow people access to their multiverses (infinite parallel universes in which we exist) and wants to use her as his guinea pig. Then there’s her husband, Dan, an unemployed journalist, who travels to Fukushima, the Japanese city devastated by a tsunami and the meltdown of its reactor.
“A friend invited me to see the Google campus,” says Schulman, “and I was so taken by how crazy it was. I thought I might want to write about someone like Sheryl Sandberg, who’s a mom working with all these baby geniuses. The idea of the multiverse theory in physics was wild and new to me, but then my 11-year-old son informed me, ‘Everyone knows that, Mom.’ ”
As for adding Fukushima to the story, Schulman says that she wanted to include it because of “the secrecy and the fact that the rest of the world didn’t care about all the radiation that’s still coming into the oceans from the melted-down reactors. I felt as if it just disappeared from the news, and things like that bother me,” she says.
Given Schulman’s day job as the fiction chair of the Creative Writing Program at the New School, it can be a challenge for her to find time to write. “It’s impossible, but I’ve always done it,” says Schulman. “Sometimes I teach 12 months a year, but I need to write to stay sane. I learned when I had kids that I didn’t have time to pour a special kind of tea or listen to the right music if I wanted to have time to write. I squirreled away little pieces of the day in which to write, and whenever I could, I dived right in.”
While the novel may be set in the center of the tech world, Schulman sees it as being about attachment. “I have a quote in the front of the book from a poem by Brenda Shaughnessy: ‘I’ll go anywhere to leave you, but come with me,’ ” she says. “It seemed so perfect for the multiverse.”