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Cover Me Up

Cover Me Up

Covers are challenging enough without making the job harder on yourself—which I certainly did with Home Was a Dream (coming April 9), by crafting a story that follows three distinct main characters along three distinct timelines.

The third Tim Green novel finds Tim digging into his father’s past, only to uncover the shocking truth that one of the factors fueling his father’s long-simmering conflict with his father, Max, was that the latter was a Holocaust survivor. The story follows Tim in the present in a series of framing segments, interspersed with chapters chronicling both Bernie’s and Max’s lives during their teenage and young adult years.

Given that set-up, you might have anticipated a triptych of some sort featuring on the cover. But besides that feeling crowded, the reality is that in this book, we spend less time in Tim’s world of the present than in Bernie’s of the 1960s and ’70s and Max’s of the 1940s. Those eras and those characters comprise the bulk of this story.

Instead, the cover maps out the story’s narrative structure in a pair of compelling images. In the upper half of the cover, you look over Bernie’s shoulder as he attends a rock concert—maybe even the New Year’s Eve show referenced in both previous Tim Green novels, where he met Tim’s mother dancing in the aisle, a moment that comes fully to life at last in Home Was a Dream. In the lower half of the cover, you look over Max’s shoulder as he approaches the entrance to Terezín, the infamous Nazi concentration camp near Prague where his family is confined for much of World War II. Both Bernie and Max appear as silhouettes, seen from behind, as if by a third person—who is, of course, the narrator: Tim.

The various images that come together on the cover were assembled and staged by my extraordinarily talented friend, the graphic designer and singer-songwriter Jean-Paul Vest, who also created the covers for My Heart Sings the Harmony, Never Break the Chain, and The Remembering. The creative process with JP is always a pleasure, a giddy burst of creative energy followed by a series of thoughtful decisions and meticulous production.

Nothing on this cover was casually chosen; every single element was purposeful. The title’s typeface is a retro callback to the eras that Bernie and Max occupy. There is a guitar because a guitar has appeared on the cover of every Tim Green novel to date. The barbed wire photo was taken by my wife Karen as we stood at the main gate into Terezín in 2016. And so on.

There’s a dichotomy, of course, a strong tonal contrast between the vibrant upper scene and the chilling lower one. That again reflects a central theme of the story—how each generation makes assumptions about their parents based on inadequate evidence that may carry only a hint of the complex truth of their lives.

Covers should offer clues about the story inside and reflect its tone and intentions in meaningful ways. The cover of Home Was a Dream signals a multi-layered story full of contrasts: laughter and tears, passion and death, crashing lows and life-affirming highs. If this glimpse into two very different worlds makes you want to know more about the story that bridges them, it has done its job.

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