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Ridgewood Native's Debut Novel Influenced By Village Upbringing

Kerry Kletter at the New York City launch of her debut novel. Ridgewood High School alumnus John Tashjian held the event at the Trading Post. Photo Credit: John Tashjian
Ridgewood native Kerry Kletter's debut novel "The First Time She Drowned" came out Tuesday. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Paul Smith

RIDGEWOOD, N.J.– Author Kerry Kletter’s dry, dark humor in her debut novel “The First Time She Drowned” stems from her Ridgewood upbringing.

“I think there is a particular kind of humor native to the town—everyone I know has it,” the 1988 Ridgewood High School graduate told Daily Voice. “My friends from Ridgewood are the funniest people I know so I tried to borrow some of that from them.”

Kletter, a former film and television actress, returned to her alma mater Friday to talk to students about “writing, and about rejection and tenacity and finding your passion in life,” she said.

“I think the education I got in Ridgewood was a huge influence on my writing,” the Santa Monica, Calif. resident added. “The teachers I had, specifically my English teachers, were truly incredible.”

The First Time She Drowned” – a young adult novel released by Penguin Publishing on Tuesday – follows 18-year-old Cassie O’Malley’s attempt to reconcile with her mother, who had her institutionalized for two-and-a-half years.

“I knew I wanted to write about a complicated parent/child relationship because it’s something I think a lot of people resonate with and I’ve always been interested in the way patterns of behavior get unconsciously passed down from one generation to the next in very predictable and sometimes destructive ways,” Kletter said. “And I wanted to examine what can happen when mental illness gets thrown into the equation—specifically if it is undiagnosed and untreated — and how difficult it can be to determine where the sickness actually lies — who is acting and who is reacting and how fine the line between the two can often be.”

Though she moved after her high school graduation, her father and his wife still live in the village.

“All of my memories of Ridgewood are fond. I made the most incredible, lasting friendships there, had the time of my life, and got an amazing education," she said. "I feel incredibly privileged to have grown up in such a beautiful town.

“It’s still home to me.”

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