Today, I am thrilled to welcome author Sara Brunsvold to I & R. Sara creates stories that speak hope, truth, and life. Influenced by humble women of God who find his fingerprints in the everyday, she does the same in her life and her storytelling. Sara’s recognitions include the 2020 ACFW Genesis Award for Contemporary Fiction.
Sara's goal is to “weave together wit and wisdom to create stories that are highly readable, relatable, and rememberable.” She has accomplished her objective with her debut novel, The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip. This emotional, intergenerational story beautifully demonstrates that the very best life is made up of thousands of deaths to self.
The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip was chosen by our Review Team as our July Book of the Month and today I & R is giving away one print copy to a lucky reader in Canada or the U.S.
Sara, welcome to I & R!
Can you please provide a brief summary of your new novel, The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip?
The story centers on the unexpected friendship between a cub reporter named Aidyn Kelley and the seventy-nine-year-old hospice patient she is sent to interview. What Aidyn at first views as a throwaway assignment soon becomes more than she could have imagined when she stumbles upon who Clara Kip really is and how she lived her life. It’s a story of friendship breaking through boundaries, and living life with vigorous love even against enormous odds.
What was the inspiration for your book?
A hospice program here in Kansas City has a service where volunteers interview the patients and compile the memories, stories, and words of wisdom into a keepsake book for the patient’s loved ones. It’s such a meaningful service, and it inspired the premise of The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip.
What a fantastic idea! Your two protagonists, Clara Kip and Aidyn Kelley, couldn’t be more different. Please introduce us to them and describe their personalities.
Opposites attract, as they say. Aidyn Kelley is an ambitious twenty-two-year-old who is insecure in both her lack of career achievements and her faith. She loves accolades and is easily frustrated when she doesn’t get them. She is also deeply uncomfortable around death and the dying. Clara Kip is a seventy-nine-year-old widow who, despite a terminal cancer diagnosis, is vivacious, adventurous, and wholly devoted to the Lord. Her chief aim is to leave everyone she meets closer to Jesus than when she found them. She has endured more grief than Aidyn knows is possible, yet she has an unshakable hope that draws in Aidyn. Together, they make quite the pair.
Do you have a favorite character?
Each character means something to me, but Clara Kip is a heart stealer. Writing the character of Clara was a ministry to my wounded soul during a difficult season of life. The process helped me learn what it looks like to live out the biblical truths I was
learning at the time, especially worship in surrender and trusting God even when the earth quakes under my feet. She is who I want to be. The other characters undoubtedly would applaud Clara earning top honors.
You stated that “the reader will be challenged by Mrs. Kip’s thousand deaths to self.” What do you mean by this statement?
Clara believes that love in its true, Jesus-shaped form requires “a thousand tiny deaths to self.” Out of devotion to her Savior, who laid down his life for her, she sacrificially gives pieces of herself—her desires, plans, time, energy, emotions, resources—to love and minister to others in his name. That’s definitely a challenge to my naturally self-focused heart.
What do you hope readers will gain from reading The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip?
My overarching prayer for every story I am given the opportunity to write is that God would use it to come alongside what he is already doing in the reader’s life. With this book in particular, hopefully readers come away with an awakened joy for surrendering to God’s will and, for women specifically, inspiration to invest in their younger sisters’ faith development (Titus 2:3–5).
Your novel takes place in 2016 in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Why did you choose this setting?
Kansas City is my favorite city on earth, and I wanted to showcase its history, landscape, and people to readers who may not be familiar with this amazing place. I chose the year because I wanted the refugee resettlement period discussed in the book to be far enough in the past for it to be an unknown to someone like Aidyn, but still recent enough that someone like Clara, who was active in that effort, would be alive and able to share stories about that important time period. The year 2016 seemed to be the best balance of all factors considered.
In The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip, you reference Clara’s key role in the resettlement of Laotian refugees in Kansas City in the late 1970s. What type of research was required to accurately portray this resettlement effort?
This piece of Clara’s life was quite literally handed to me. One day a family friend handed me a fragile, yellowed clipping from the Kansas City Star. She had saved it from 1975. “You need to write about this,” she told me. The article was about the burgeoning resettlement efforts in the city. She was one of many people who were actively involved, and she wanted the story to be remembered by today’s generation, especially fellow Christians. Capturing her memories was the first step. She has a wealth of pictures from that time period too, which made the emotional impact for me all the more real. From there, research involved the Kansas City Star archives, historical societies, hours of online searches, documentaries, and more interviews. I focused on the sponsors’ perspective of the events since that was the one represented in the book. That was a fascinating period in local and world history, and it’s worth your time.
How can readers connect with you?
Reader connections make all this worthwhile! Please feel free to reach out to me directly through my website, www.sarabrunsvold.com. Instagram (@Sara_Brunsvold) and Facebook (@SaraBrunsvoldAuthor) are great places to connect as well.
Thank you for sharing with us today, Sara. And now, Dear Readers, if you would like to win a copy of The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip fill out the form below! This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S.A and Canada. One winner will receive a print copy. This giveaway will run until August 3, 2022 and the winner will be announced here, on Facebook and via email. So, make sure you check back to see if you have won!
Congratulations to Natalya Lakhno! You have won a copy of The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip. Watch for our email!
A throwaway assignment is about to change two lives forever
Aidyn Kelley is talented, ambitious, and ready for a more serious assignment than the fluff pieces she's been getting as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star. In her eagerness, she pushes too hard, earning herself the menial task of writing an obituary for an unremarkable woman who's just entered hospice care.
But there's more to Clara Kip than meets the eye. The spirited septuagenarian may be dying, but she's not quite ready to cash it in yet. Never one to shy away from an assignment herself, she can see that God brought the young reporter into her life for a reason. And if it's a story Aidyn Kelley wants, that's just what Mrs. Kip will give her--but she's going to have to work for it.