When I first met Jill Essbaum she was a poet. Now nearly a dozen years later she is still a poet—plus a bestselling New York Times author.
The above link describes Jill as a writer of erotica. I know people who write erotica and usually they don’t use their real name. (Hey! No judgment here—these gals are making BIG money writing racy eBooks. Friends who by day write children’s lit and by night pay the bills under a pseudonym.)
More than for looking for sex in all the “wrong” places, Jill loves to uncover a pun. Word play is her forte. And, let’s face it, innuendo is one of the easiest ways to get one’s attention. It sounds like I’m writing one thing and really I’m saying something else. That kind of writing engages the whole mind because it makes you question—is it her or me who’s thinking about . . . ?
In many ways Hausfrau is straight forward. It is literature and sexy. It is suspenseful and allows for word play—such as the scenes where the questioning of grammar and the exact word drive Anna’s sessions with her psychologist. Anna, an unhappily married housewife living as an expatriate in a tiny town outside of Zurich has three outlets: her Swiss German language classes, her therapy sessions with a Jungian analysis, and her lovers. That last one is a bit layered, as there were many, secrets of them.
At Goodreads there are atleast 12 pages of reviews and at Amazon there are 94 customer reviews. And, here is my secret: Jill sent me a PDF last fall. I read it while vacationing in Sweden. Imagine reading about the plight and sexual misadventures of Anna, the main character, by moonlight and the light given off by a campfire. The next day the story stayed with me while hiking 20 or so kilometers.
Now I’m not going to go into a ton of background, though I could about Jill and our years of long phone conversations; she had her own unbearable sadness just like Anna Benz. She also at times felt like a stranger in her own skin while living abroad. The Jill I know was/is always looking for signs. For dominos on her morning walk, or marbles, or playing cards. Just like messages inside fortune cookies or the prize inside Cracker Jack, she knew they were out there in the ordinary. One only has to look. And, that is how Jill writes—leaving little trails of words in the midst of ordinariness. Hausfrau, though the character of Anna spirals out of control, is someone we all can relate to. Her insecurities, that feeling of otherness, the woman searching for meaning (in all the wrong places). She is so empty inside, you can hear her echo when she speaks.
Thanks Jill for pursuing Anna, for pursuing a genre you were new to, for going (a lot) outside your comfort zone to write a book that has left many readers equally uncomfortable. For Jill there has been a happy ending: a New York Times bestselling author.