Two of my favorite things in the world are books and craft beer. Out of this grew the idea that maybe pairings aren’t just for the table anymore; perhaps there is a perfect beer for every book . . .
Allison Winn Scotch is one of my favorite authors and I am always excited for anything new from her, so I was thrilled when The Theory of Opposites came out late last year!
The novel opens with the main character, Willa, losing her job. Days later, her husband decides he needs a break from their marriage, but not before committing both himself and Willa to a long-term visit from their teenage nephew, Nicky. As if that isn’t enough, Willa’s family is embroiled in more drama than I can describe in this short synopsis.
According to Willa’s father’s theory (which he has famously published in a best-selling book) these things have all happened for a reason and there is nothing Willa can do to change her destiny. Having never been certain of the accuracy of her father’s philosophy and faced with her own personal “rock bottom” Willa allows her best friend, Vanessa, to talk her into co-authoring a book in which they try to disprove his theory. Instead of just accepting her fate, Willa sets out to do the opposite of whatever she would typically do in attempt to write her own ending. Her journey is punctuated with an appearance on a reality television show, a traumatic hike up Mt. Rainier, lots of family drama, a memorable catch at a baseball game and an encounter with an old love.
Scotch tells Willa’s story in a way that perfectly captures the vast, painful confusion that comes with change and personal growth, while still offering the reader laugh out loud moments. Neither the dark moments nor the lighter moments felt forced. Scotch nails Willa’s voice and the reader is immediately inside her head, living her journey with her.
I’ve paired The Theory of Opposites with Brewery Ommegang’s Three Philosophers for several reasons. First, the novel is all about differing philosophies of fate versus free will, so that makes it an obvious choice. Secondly, it is brewed in Cooperstown, N.Y — location of the baseball Hall of Fame, a nod to the memorable baseball scene in the novel. Finally, I chose this beer because it was not my usual pick from Ommegang. My go to beer from this brewery is their farmhouse ale, Hennepin. In the spirit of the novel, it felt right not to choose what I usually would.
I was rewarded for veering out of my normal pattern. Three Philosophers is a Belgian Quadrupel blended with a cherry infused ale (aka, Kriek). It’s sweet, but not cloying and the fruit taste is well-balanced. At 9.7% alcohol, it’s a sipping beer, meant to be savored slowly, just like every word of a really, really good book.
Allison was nice enough to answer a few questions about The Theory of Opposites and share her own favorite brew:
You’ve written very openly about your decision to self-publish The Theory of Opposites, after working with a traditional publishing house for your other novels. Did your own decision-making process about this affect your decision to write about a character who was “writing her own map” or was this just a coincidence?
This is a great question, and I think – while it may not have been an entirely conscious decision – but that certainly, it can’t be a coincidence that this book is really about charting your own destiny, and that I wrote it at a very pivotal moment in my life when I felt compelled to chart mine. None of my books are ever autobiographical, and to be honest, none of the characters are particularly like me, but certainly, I really, really related to the underlying themes that my characters were wrestling with, and the triumph that they (and I!) achieved by the end of the book.
There are a lot of really strong personalities in your novel, especially in Willa’s family. I always think of these characters as the writer’s version of character acting. Was there a particular character that was especially fun to write?
That is such a spot-on assessment of how I write, and I love that you characterized it in that way. Yes, when I’m writing, I DO act out the parts. I mean, I think (though I’m not totally aware of it), that I mutter dialogue under my breath and talk to myself throughout. Anyway, to answer your question, if it’s not obvious, I had a BLAST writing them all. 🙂 Really. It’s hard to pick favorites because they all have aspects and dialogue that I adore. That said, Nicky has to get a special shout-out…I had so much fun writing this smart, sensitive, snarky, confused teenager. He really, I think, is the heart of the book, and his evolution is, for me, so touching and so honest, and yet, he never loses his bite or his wit. To find a character like that…well, he is probably one of my favorites I’ve ever written.
You recently launched a really awesome new project, Parents Read Best, which is a website for parents to make recommendations for children based on what their children are reading and loving. (I’m super excited to use it for my niece’s upcoming birthday). What are some of the first books you remember reading?
As a kid, I liked things a little warped, so one of my favorite books was called Venomous Animals. 🙂 I read it all the time. For lighter fare, I, like everyone, adored Judy Blume: Blubber, Are You There God, Otherwise Known as Sheila The Great. Pippi Longstocking was a favorite, as was Bridge to Terabithia. I still remember losing my breath when reading the ending.
My husband is more of a beer drinker than I am, but he turned me on to Negro Modelo with a lime. It’s rich with flavor but not particularly heavy. Refreshing on a hot day (or just a long one!).