Described as an author who writes serious books on playful matters, Greenwich resident Rozsa Gaston does just that in her latest novel, Running From Love.
The book follows a love story between two avid runners who appear to come from different sides of the tracks. Farrah, a Queens, N.Y., native who has moved to a more well-to-do section of the Bronx, is gritty and down to earth, but cautious. Jude, her love interest, is a Long Island native living in Greenwich who knows how to walk the walk of a wealthy resident but doesn’t quite fit in.
Wrapped up in this tale of finding one’s authentic self and having the courage and clarity to be vulnerable within a relationship, however, is a playful look at the real-life stereotypes surrounding Greenwich and its inhabitants.
In an interview with the Post, Ms. Gaston said she was inspired to write Running From Love as a result not only of her own passion for running but also her experiences living in Greenwich while socializing with fellow members of the Van Cortlandt Track Club.
A member of the track club for 14 years now, Ms. Gaston said she and her husband enjoy biweekly trips to the Bronx, N.Y., where the club meets. The contrast between stereotypical Greenwich residents and the multitude of ethnicities and personalities found mingling in the Bronx is not only fun to observe but “continually gives me energy and fresh ideas,” Ms. Gaston said, especially because outsiders continue to believe the stereotype that Greenwich is strictly a playground for the rich and famous.
A town resident for more than six years, Ms. Gaston said she finds misconceptions about Greenwich amusing. No matter how many times she tells outsiders that Greenwich is a diverse town with many faces, Ms. Gaston is met with the refusal to believe it, she said. Her message is never accepted as true, as visions of enormous estates and playing polo with the prince continue to dominate outsiders’ visions of the town and its residents, she said.
Ms. Gaston plays with these stereotypes throughout Running From Love, simultaneously interweaving the humor and injustice they evoke. The fun part is using the story line to “fill in the pieces” about what Greenwich is truly like, she said, which is at the heart of the novel’s conflict.
Although the characters appear to be a good match, Farrah is put off by Jude’s status as a well-connected Greenwich resident who ghost-writes for a popular financial figure. Ms. Gaston explains that Farrah knows she is not the perfectly put together package that the Greenwich women who surround Jude seem to be. The issue is exacerbated by the fact that Farrah’s last boyfriend, a wealthy Manhattan businessman, dumped her for a rich, polished woman from Darien.
Farrah and Jude go on a few dates, but her inability to let go of the misconceptions about what it means to be from Greenwich tear them apart throughout the story, Ms. Gaston said.
It is Jude’s status, both in the past and in the present, that helps illuminate who he really is to Farrah, who ultimately realizes that her false perception of Greenwich was a large part of what divided the couple.
Although no one knows it, Ms. Gaston said, Jude’s seemingly luxurious lifestyle growing up in Oyster Bay, Long Island, was actually a humble beginning.
In fact, his father worked as a caretaker for a wealthy family there, and his mother cooked their meals while the trio lived in a garage over the large estate they cared for. Knowing how to talk the talk and walk the walk of the wealthy, however, Jude is able to schmooze his way through Greenwich by using that knowledge to “straddle two worlds,” Ms. Gaston said. Uncomfortable being caught in between these two worlds, she said, Jude ultimately sees that he is in but not of Greenwich, which gives him the clarity and self-knowledge to show Farrah who he truly is.
He realizes that her unpolished, imperfect energy is what attracts him to her. She is not one of the “castle walls with no windows” that the stereotypical, high society Greenwich women he’s been surrounded by represent, she said.
Similarly, a major running accomplishment gives Farrah the strength and confidence to turn away her self-centered ex, who has returned to her life, leading her past the fears that manifest themselves in her running life, Ms. Gaston said. By learning to run “nose over toes” and lean into the pavement, Farrah is able to apply the concept to her relationship with Jude by turning off the “brakes” that keep her personal life from moving forward and stopping her from discovering who he really is.
Ms. Gaston said she hopes Running From Love illustrates how the smugness embodied by some Greenwich residents does not accurately portray the town’s true character.
“I’m hoping I’m hitting upon a lot of universal truths in this story,” Ms. Gaston said.
Running From Love is available in paperback or eBook editions at Amazon.com/books/runningfromlove. It is also available at all Greenwich libraries.
Ms. Gaston is also the author of Paris Adieu, Lyric, Dog Sitters, and her newest work, Black Is Not a Color, which will be available next month. More information about her work is available at Rozsagaston.com.