Bridey McKenna’s graduation present is meant to be the ultimate mother-daughter vacation, during the one of history’s most important summers — the summer of 1967. Eighteen and in Europe for the first time, nothing is what Bridey expects. Her mother wants to keep her hermetically sealed on the tour bus, safe from all harm. “Harm” in her mother’s terms means having any experiences at all. Bridey’s chances for adventure, romance and enlightenment look slim-to-none until she arrives in Umbria and meets Alessandro — someone who could change everything about her future. Alessandro is no ordinary singing waiter and he’s the last person on earth her mother wants in her daughter’s life. Bridey’s only hope for things to get better is to connect in Rome with her worldly aunt and uncle — a man who holds a position at the British embassy in Jordan that no one ever quite… defines. When an emergency takes Bridey off the tour, on to Athens and farther into that world than she ever imagined, the complex terrain of family, love and womanhood holds a surprising itinerary. In the summer before college, it’s the education of a lifetime.
Set in Germany, Italy and Greece over a six-week period, What You Don’t Know Now is set in 1967, the famous Summer of Love, when things were not, however, loving in the US or across the world. Just a few years prior, the term Ugly American was born. Graffiti on Autobahn overpasses spelled out hostile feelings about the US involvement in Viet Nam. The story has an international setting as the protagonist travels, and includes the issue of falling in love with a man who is gifted and driven — and the possible consequences of that, versus the character’s own pending launch and ambitions for her life. And it explores the complex territory of love between a mother and daughter who are about to separate into their own lives for the first time.
In 1967, not all young women were hippies passing out flowers in Haight Ashbury. They were making choices and exploring the idea that they might have different options than their mothers, but those choices and options had new consequences and outcomes waiting. I think the theme of loving and letting go — and being let go of — is timeless. My book also includes the fact that even spies have regular family lives! (I know this is true because I had a CIA spy in my family.)