“I just want to read and reread this book again and again. It was such a deep book but written in a way you just wanted to keep reading till the end. You could see yourself in the characters and you really could feel what they are going through.”— Amanda Yates, Margaritas and Camouflage Book Blog
About Finding Myself: Although Rebecca O’Connor-Smith is somewhat content, she secretly longs for a more fascinating life. Her dead-end office job bores her, and her husband, Jason, while sweet, is more interested in settling down in suburban Toronto than going on adventures with her. So, when an opportunity to be a part of an archaeological dig in southern Israel arises, she takes it. Despite the current hostilities of the country, Rebecca is passionate about the culture, history, language, and even music of Israel. Getting the chance to use her skills and knowledge obtained from her archaeology major in a place she loves is a dream come true.
Spending three weeks digging in the treasure trove of the Israeli desert makes her feel fulfilled like never before. However, the dig inspires her to further her archaeological degree despite the financial toll it will have on her marriage. Moreover, Rebecca finds herself attracted to another volunteer who intellectually challenges her in ways her husband never did.
Torn between a secure, comfortable life with a man she loves and a challenging, exciting academic career with no guarantees about her future, Rebecca must choose what kind of life she wants to live for herself.
What inspired you to write Finding Myself?
I felt compelled to write a contemporary novel that would represent Biblical archaeology and academia in a fun and engaging way. Most women’s fiction stories I’ve read so far revolve around glamour and glitz. While there is nothing wrong with these themes, I wanted to create something different. Coming from a background in Near Eastern studies, I felt I could realistically portray the joys and struggles of the field and also explore one of the most common issues many of us face today. I think all of us have struggled with Rebecca’s dilemma at some point regardless of the circumstances, and many will be able to relate to her story.
Through Rebecca’s eyes, we get an intimate look at Israel. Not just the landscape, but the politics, culture, and especially the everyday lives of the people. Why did you choose it as your setting for Rebecca’s story?
I find Israeli culture rather fascinating but underrepresented in literature. Most fiction stories taking place in Israel tend to be heavily political. While politics does play a major part in Finding Myself, it’s not the focal point. Rebecca’s story takes place during the summer of 2014, when the conflict with Gaza flared up, causing several archaeological digs in the southern region to become relocated to safer areas. Hence, we see the twists and turns of the story taking place across various parts of the country. However, I wanted Israel to be about more than just politics. I wanted to incorporate into the story Hebrew music, common linguistic expressions, and of course Biblical archaeology to reveal the richness of Israel’s history and culture.
While Rebecca is challenged academically during her archaeology trip, what do you consider to be her true “test” while in Israel?
I think relationships represent her biggest test, both in Israel and at home. She struggles to maintain a healthy relationship with her husband, over-protective family, and roommates. She meets new people on the dig, makes friends, and even comes close to straying. As Rebecca learns to navigate around the people in her life, her journey becomes all the more fascinating and challenging.
What do you like most about archaeology? If you could go on an archaeology dig of your own, where would you go?
Working in nature, getting my hands dirty, discovering artifacts, and meeting new people from all around the world are some of the most fascinating aspects of archaeology. I went to Bethsaida in 2013, and if I had a choice, I would gladly go back. I also hope to excavate in Greece and Bulgaria one day, when my kids are older.
If a college student, or someone going back to college later in life, were to ask you about studying abroad, what would you tell them? Any advice?
Well, I’d love to say “Go for it,” but everyone’s situation is different. Some people might have commitments and responsibilities preventing them from moving abroad, so I’m in no place to provide advice. What might have worked for Rebecca may not work for someone else. One thing I could definitely recommend is to sign up for a short-term volunteer program to test waters and see if it works for them.
Despite being so different, Rebecca often turns to her sister, Erin, for advice. Is Erin based on anyone you know? Do you have any sisters of your own?
No, I don’t have any sisters. Erin represents a stereotypical, fashion-forward singleton searching for her Mr. Right. She does not always approve of Rebecca’s interests or life choices, but she is always there to provide support. I wanted to create a character different from the nerdy protagonist to explore the tapestry of sibling relationships. Ultimately, I wanted to show that friendships can blossom between people with different personalities.
“…a good tale of self-discovery…you can clearly see the passion that the author put into writing this.”— Julie Angela Yu, NetGalley Reviewer
Quick! Who would you choose—Intellectual George or Sweet Jason? And why?
Good question! I would definitely want to be with someone who is kind and understanding and does love kids, so it’s probably Jason. While George was not created to be a villain, he does have some shortcomings that would make it difficult for me to relate to someone like him. But I loved crafting both characters.
Are you working on another novel?
I am working on another novel set in Israel. It’s a story about a young woman who applies for an overseas camp counselor job in Israel to take a break from a mundane life in Toronto and who runs into an old flame on one particularly bad day. She first believes that this encounter means nothing, but as the two begin spending more time together, they both realize that their feelings for each other aren’t gone. However, her one mistake from the past threatens to destroy their future. Before they can find their happy ending, each must go through a series of trials.
About the Author:
Olga Sushinsky graduated with a B.A. in History and French and an M.A. in Near Eastern Civilizations from the University of Toronto. Her longtime fascination with ancient Israel inspired her to write her debut novel, Finding Myself. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading light fiction with happy endings, visiting local galleries, and spending time with her family.
Check out her website for more information on her book, blog, or editing services!
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