Underdahl, S.T. 1964- (Susan Thompson Underdahl)
Underdahl, S.T. 1964- (Susan Thompson Underdahl)
Born 1964, in ND; married; children: one daughter, two sons, three stepdaughters.
The Other Sister, Flux (Woodbury, MN), 2007.
Author of a blog, S.T. Underdahl, a Work in Progress.
A clinical neuropsychologist by day, author S.T. Underdahl writes in the scant down time between her career and taking care of six children. Underdahl described her schedule to an interviewer for Slay Ground: "During the day, I see patients who come to my office for evaluation or treatment, but I also may leave my office and go to one of the local hospitals to do a consult, which means that a doctor has asked me to see a hospitalized patient and give my opinion. For the last two years, I've also worked as a clinical supervisor for psychology graduate students, … and I see them on Tuesday mornings. Oh, and I write over the noon hours!" Those noon hours led to a novel written for a contest which Underdahl did not win. However, she decided to try and get this work published, and the result was her 2007 debut young adult novel, The Other Sister, a story of an adoption reunion and the effects it has on one family, and in particular, one teenage girl.
Josey Muller is fifteen, well-adjusted, bright, and happy. The only daughter of Anne and Bill Muller, Josey has two brothers; thus it comes as a shock to her to learn she also has a sister. Anne and Bill became pregnant while in high school and put the daughter, Audrey, up for adoption. They have kept this secret for a quarter of a century, and now Audrey has sought out her birth parents and is coming to visit. A decade older than Josey, Audrey is on her way to becoming a psychologist, the very profession Josey had chosen for herself. Josey is the only one in the family not accepting of this new member, for now she feels displaced; she has become the other sister. To smooth things out, Josey's parents convince her to spend a weekend with her older sister, and during that time she learns things about Audrey and her life that change their relationship for the better.
For the Slay Ground contributor, The Other Sister was a "deeply personal story," as a similar thing actually happened in Underdahl's own family. Writing for BookLoons, Lyn Seippel opined, "Underdahl's characters are rich and supportive of one another in this quiet book of changing family relationships." Further praise came from In the Library Reviews contributor Safiya Tremayne, who termed the novel "tender and heartfelt," and "brimming with emotion." Similarly, School Library Journal writer Deborah Vose concluded, "This vivid, realistic portrait of a family in transition will hold readers' interest to the very last page," and a Kirkus Reviews critic commented, "Gently touching and ultimately hopeful, Underdahl lets the reader know that while the past can't be erased, a new and loving present can be created."
Underdahl told CA: "I come from a long line of ‘people who write’; my grandmother wrote pieces for teaching magazines and my siblings all write in one form or another. When I turned forty, I decided that my forties would be the decade I tried to write a novel, and … here I am!
"As a neuropsychologist, my writing can't help but be influenced by the many fascinating people I meet every day. Future topics will include dementia, bipolar disorder, and post-concussion syndrome. I think that young adult literature, in particular, provides a wonderful opportunity not only to entertain, but to educate young people in an easy-to-digest way.
"A year ago I would have said, ‘I don't think I have a process,’ but I've recently realized I do have one. It involves getting a seemingly inspired but half-baked idea, then charging forward with it, writing about four chapters before I run out of steam, and then asking myself, ‘Hm, where am I going with this?’ Then I'll stop and make an outline which I'll follow pretty faithfully. Since I don't have a lot of time in my day to write (noon hours and late at night, if I still have it in me), I tend to write in short bursts, with a lot of passive processing and ‘hey, wouldn't it be cool if … ’ going on in between. I've had to learn the value of a new kind of patience, and realize that those periods when you're not actually writing can be as productive as the ones where you are.
"It's still very surprising to me to find how exhilarating writing can be. In fact, when a block of available writing time coincides with words and idea that are flowing easily, it's a delicious kind of high. I feel like I could go without sleep for days, except that I have to get up for work and to get people off to school.
"Like most writers, I'm first and foremost an avid reader. Books have enriched my life on so many levels; one of my earliest memories is of my dad taking me to get my first library book (it turned out I had to wait a week for my card to be approved … I cried!) I'm endlessly surprised and gratified to find myself in the position of contributing something to the delicious soup of literature, and it tickles me to think that someone might find the same kind of enjoyment and escape in my writing that I've found in the writing of so many others. And, of course, loads of money and critical acclaim wouldn't be bad either."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2007, review of The Other Sister.
School Library Journal, March 2007, Deborah Vose, review of The Other Sister, p. 220.
BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (December 18, 2007), Lyn Seippel, review of The Other Sister.
In the Library Reviews,http://www.inthelibraryreviews.net/ (June 12, 2007), Safiya Tremayne, review of The Other Sister.
Kids Reader Reviews,http://www.readerviewkids.com/ (December 18, 2007), review of The Other Sister.
Slay Ground,http://slayground.livejournal.com/ (December 18, 2007), "Interview: S.T. Underdahl."
S.T. Underdahl Home Page,http://www.stunderdahl.com (December 18, 2007).
Susan Underdahl Home Page,http://www.susanunderdahl.com (December 18, 2007).
Teens Read Too,http://www.teensreadtoo.com/ (March 1, 2007), Randstostipher Nguyen, review of The Other Sister.