MTPR

'A Job You Mostly Won't Know How To Do' With Pete Fromm

May 9, 2019

Over eleven books and over twenty years, Pete Fromm has become one of the West’s literary legends. A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do beautifully captures people who, isolated by land and by their actions, end up building a life that is both unexpected and brave.

A Job You Mostly Won't Know How To Do

The following highlights are from a conversation with Pete Fromm about his novel," A Job You Mostly Won't Know How to Do." To hear the full conversation, click the link above or subscribe to our podcast.

What were some of the bigger trials of your being a father?

Our first son was not a sleeper for about five years. I think we averaged maybe five hours a night, not more than two hours straight, for four or five years. Somehow my wife stayed employed--she doesn’t remember much of it. I wrote a novel--I don’t remember much of doing it--but that was the toughest. Even then I loved it. It was always fun, and challenging, and cool.

The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in developed nations. Were you intending to make commentary on this fact, or how did this story come to you?

The fact that the US--which should not have one of the highest maternal death rates in the world--was definitely on my mind. I’ve got a low-res teaching gig at Pacific University in Oregon and I’m out there two weeks a year. A student came and slapped a copy of Glimmer Train against my chest. He’s a big, macho fireman and he says, “Read this story ‘The Hospital.’ Tell me if I’m a baby for crying.” So I read it, and it’s about a guy, his wife’s got a very risky pregnancy and they’ve been in the hospital for months. The story ends with him walking out of the hospital with the baby and his wife has died. It was a great ending for the story but I thought, oh man, that’s the beginning of another huge story: this guy then going home with the baby.

I started the next day writing from that scene going forward: totally different guy, but just that idea of coming home with the baby but without the mother.

Break

Pete, once I attended a reading where you read about a couple after a school shooting. I’m thinking about this book and some of your other work: where does this darkness come from?

I think it’s a tragic case of “what if.” I’ve been so lucky in my whole life. My parents stayed together, they raised six kids in middle class. I blundered into coming out to Montana. I blundered into William Kittredge’s writing class and found out what I wanted to do.

I always wonder “what if?” What if you had something going on and then some big roadblock came? That’s sort of where stories come from. A friend of mine describes plot as, “then things got worse.” I wrote this story of the school shooting right after the Newtown shooting. I was just so overwhelmed at the idea of sending a 6 year-old off to school and having them shot, and how that would effect the survivors, which is much the same in this book. You know, you’re going to the hospital to have your baby and then you come home without your wife. Then what?

So, “what if” and “then what.” Maybe I pick some of the grimmer things, but I want to see people and how they regroup and rise above. How you can go into something that’s so difficult and come out of it, I don’t that better is the right word for it, but transformed. Not just surviving but making something new.

About the Book:

A taciturn carpenter has been too busy putting the final details on others’ homes to pay much attention to his own fixer-upper. But when his wife becomes pregnant with their first child, he realizes he’ll need to apply his art closer to home. For Taz and Marnie, their dreams are coming into focus, sustained by their deep sense of love and now family.

The blueprint for the perfect life eludes Taz, plummeting him headfirst into the strange new world of fatherhood, of responsibility and late nights and unexpected joy and sorrow. His journey to make peace with his past and chart out a future with his young daughter will lead him to new revelations about what it means to build a home.

Over eleven books and over twenty years, Pete Fromm has become one of the West’s literary legends. A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do beautifully captures people who, isolated by land and by their actions, end up building a life that is both unexpected and brave.

Pete Fromm
Credit Emmanuel Romer

About the Author: 

Pete Fromm is a five-time winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award for his novels If Not for ThisAs Cool as I Am, and How All This Started; the story collection Dry Rain; and the memoir Indian Creek Chronicles. He is on the faculty of Pacific University’s low-residency MFA program, and lives in Montana with his family.