(from Harcourt Brace, publisher)
Question: In “The Whistling Season,” Paul and his brother decide to keep a secret from their father because doing so will deliver the right outcome. Throughout the book, Paul becomes the guardian of an increasing number of secrets. What are your feelings about individuals who withhold potentially damaging information out of a sense of personal justice? Do you sense this type of behavior was more prevalent a century ago than it is today?
A: Paul indeed starts to feel inundated with secrets, some of them of the slyly funny, schoolyard variety and some vitally serious. He is a very bright thirteen-year-old, who at one point realizes his life is about to change, that he is “less than a man but starting to be something more than a boy.” But in the case of the ultimate secret, he has to draw on instinct and innate decency to reach his decision. So I see Paul’s chosen course as one of compassion, in the name of giving his family a chance to knit itself together and to offer amnesty to someone who has made a misstep in life, but who shows every sign of having retrieved her full worth. To me, and I suppose this is reflected in Paul, there is sometimes not just one justice in a situation but rather a choice, and my hope is that Paul chose wisely.
Paul’s kind of decision possibly was more in line with his time and place—the early twentieth century and a community, rural, but full of nuance toward neighbors and family—than our screen-driven, tell-all era of e-mail, television, movies, and so on. Yet, my belief is that decent behavior is never out-of-date.