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May 3, 2019

Chris Pavone: There’s Always Time to Read a Bedtime Story

Posted by tom

Chris Pavone is the New York Times bestselling author of THE EXPATS, THE ACCIDENT and THE TRAVELERS. His fourth thriller, THE PARIS DIVERSION, releases on May 7th and marks the return of American expat Kate Moore, who discovers that a massive terror attack across Paris is not what it seems --- and that it involves her family. When Chris quit his job in publishing to become a full-time writer, he found himself holding down the fort at home while his wife, Madeline, forged ahead with her own publishing career. But despite her countless professional responsibilities at all hours of the day (and sometimes on other continents), Madeline always found time to read to their two young sons at night.


When our twin boys were toddlers, I was seized by a midlife crisis and could no longer stomach the idea of going to an office every day for the rest of my professional life. I quit my job in publishing and embarked on a new career as a writer. I quickly found work ghostwriting, which was a far less demanding way to earn a living, and I suddenly had a lot more free time, which in fact had been a large motivation to quit my office job. I’d been dissatisfied with the balance of our lives, with both Madeline and I working 60 hours per week, stressed to breaking every time a kid needed to go to the doctor, outsourcing everything that we could pay other people to do so that we could earn the money to pay them to do it.

Not anymore. Now I went to those unexpected pediatrician visits, and the expected ones too. I went to the playground, to preschool, to the veterinarian and orthodontist, to the grocery store and toy store and drugstore, I cooked dinner and got the car inspected, I took on one household chore after another until I had nearly all of them. It turns out that the daily responsibilities of many writers are indistinguishable from the daily responsibilities of a homemaker. Somebody needs to do this work, and it might as well be the person who’s already wearing sweatpants and has no meetings on the calendar for today.

But the one thing I almost never did was read bedtime stories. That job belonged to my wife.

Meanwhile, her career had proceeded unimpeded by doubts or midlife crisis or the desire to wear sweatpants all day. Back when she and I met, she was on the bottom rung of a tall corporate ladder. Within a few years, she had a few people reporting to her, then later a few dozen, then a hundred and a few hundred and a thousand, and eventually a few thousand. Somewhere in there she’d also gotten a job in Luxembourg, and we’d moved abroad, then back to New York. She had professional responsibilities at night, on weekends, on other continents. She worked a lot. She still does.

But when she was home, she read to the boys incessantly, from the early years of GOODNIGHT MOON and SHEEP IN A JEEP through Roald Dahl and all of Harry Potter. There was never a moment when they did not have a book in progress. Even as the boys gave up their pacifiers and then their teddy bears, as they stopped accepting public hugs and started walking home from school by themselves, as they learned how to sail singlehanded boats and navigate the New York city subway system, they’d still find her before bedtime:

“Mommy, can you read to us?”

Sometimes it would be for an hour, sometimes for only five minutes. But the answer was always the same: yes.