Flathead grad pens memoir about flawed family

Print Article

  • Nicole Harkin, a 1993 Flathead High School graduate, is the author of “Tilting, A Memoir,” that details her dysfunctional family life while growing up in Kalispell (Photos courtesy of Nicole Harkin)

  • 1

    Nicole Harkin, right, is pictured in a family portrait that includes her parents, Jack and Linda Harkin, and her siblings, John, Erica and Montana.

  • Nicole Harkin, a 1993 Flathead High School graduate, is the author of “Tilting, A Memoir,” that details her dysfunctional family life while growing up in Kalispell (Photos courtesy of Nicole Harkin)

  • 1

    Nicole Harkin, right, is pictured in a family portrait that includes her parents, Jack and Linda Harkin, and her siblings, John, Erica and Montana.

The exterior shell of Nicole Harkin’s life exudes accomplishment.

The 1993 Flathead High School graduate’s resume is stuffed with achievement — a law degree, Fulbright Fellow in Germany, a research associate for a federal project on government oversight, a long stint as an analyst with the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Harkin’s personal life seems right on track, too. As a child she belonged to Girl Scouts, played on Flathead’s first girls soccer team, was a ski-school instructor and took dance lessons. Now, at 43, she has a loving husband, two young sons and a nice life in Washington, D.C.

Yet there was a story to be told about what people didn’t see when they pictured her life. What bubbled up is the account of a family that was flawed and sometimes excruciatingly human. Harkin’s book, “Tilting, A Memoir,” was published in June by independent publishing company Black Rose Writing.

“It’s so funny when people say my family was dysfunctional,” she said in a phone interview from her Washington, D.C. home. “It didn’t seem dysfunctional to me.”

Harkin’s family life wasn’t normal by most standards, though.

“We only learned about our father’s girlfriend after he became deathly ill and lay in a coma in Missoula, having been airlifted there from our home in Kalispell,” Harkin said, describing a jumping-off point for her memoir.

She remembers overhearing the nurse tell her mother about the girlfriend who stopped by nearly every day to visit her gravely ill father when the rest of the family wasn’t there.

That “confirmed that the last moment of normal had passed us by without our realizing it,” she said. “Up to then, our family had unhappily co-existed with dad flying jumbo jets to Asia while we lived in Montana,” she said. “He was a commercial pilot for Delta; his job was to be gone.

“We finally came together to see dad through his illness, but he was once again absent from a major family event, unable to join us from his comatose state,” she said, describing the crux of her memoir. “This is the moment when our normal existence tilted.”

Truth be told, there were earlier hints of infidelity by her father.

“When I was much younger I heard my mother and grandma talking. She had found a black hair in his luggage,” Harkin recalled. “He was vehement in his denial, and I believed him.”

But later she learned her father had an affair with another woman while her mother was pregnant with her.

Harkin’s father recovered, but her parents divorced and in 1999 her mother became deathly ill with cancer and died just nine months later in 2000.

“When my mom was sick I wanted to write something. I had this kind of ‘War of the Roses’ [theme] in my head,” Harkin explained, referring to the black comedy film that follows a couple with a seemingly perfect marriage that ends in an outrageous and bitter divorce battle.

After Harkin’s mother died, she recounts in the book how she and her three siblings “began to move down an entirely different path with silver linings we wouldn’t see for many years.”

Harkin had a strained relationship with her father after her mother died. He died of a heart attack at 68 nine years ago, just six weeks before her marriage to Brent Lattin, also a Flathead graduate.

The idea of writing about her flawed family chipped away at her, so she set out a strategy for becoming an author.

“The first thing was I read a ton of books,” she said. “Step one: read more.”

Then she tapped into an online writing studio through Stanford University. That allowed her to refine the idea of a memoir and develop a cohesive narrative.

She worked on the book full time for three years.

Harkin intends to continue writing and currently is working on a mystery novel set in Berlin.

“Tilting” already has gotten favorable reviews, with Meghan Phillips of Hippocampus Magazine, an online literary magazine, writing that “‘Tilting’ offers an honest portrait of a family that didn’t know how to communicate without screaming at each other, and shows that even the most unbalanced family dynamics can find an equilibrium.”

“Tilting, A Memoir,” is available at all major booksellers. For more information go to www.tiltingmemoir.com.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

Print Article

Read More

Flathead LGBTQ+ Alliance offers safe space for gay, trans and questioning youth

April 24, 2018 at 2:00 am | Daily Inter Lake On Wednesday night in the basement of the ImagineIF Library in Kalispell more than two dozen students and parents formed a circle of chairs. They kicked off the meeting with introductions — name,...

Read More

UM president discusses new direction

April 24, 2018 at 2:00 am | Daily Inter Lake The University of Montana is still in the early stages of transformation under the leadership of university president Seth Bodnar. Bodnar, who started at the university in January, stopped by The Da...

Comments

Read More

Fair-Mont-Egan principal resigns

April 24, 2018 at 2:00 am | Daily Inter Lake The Fair-Mont-Egan School principal and school board chairwoman have resigned in the wake of a board decision not to renew the principal’s contract without cause. The board accepted Fair-Mont-Egan S...

Comments

Read More

The Latest: Republican wins Arizona US House seat election

AP

April 24, 2018 at 9:09 pm | PHOENIX (AP) — The Latest on Tuesday's special election for an Arizona congressional seat (all times local): 8 p.m. Republican Debbie Lesko has won the special election in Arizona's 8th Congr...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2018 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X