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The Story Behind THE OUTLIERS Trilogy by Kimberly McCreight

The first time it happened was years ago, when my daughter was four years old. “I don’t like those noises, Mommy,” she’d said mildly, moments after we’d arrived at her friend’s indoor gymnastics party. There wasn’t anything frightening—only the ordinary thuds of children moving from ball pit to trampoline to balance beam. But thirty minutes later, we were forced to bolt mid-party. By the time we made it the sidewalk, my daughter was crying hysterically, hands clamped frantically over her ears.

It was only the beginning. For a few seemingly endless months afterwards, my daughter’s anxiety bloomed like a mushroom cloud. Perhaps, this should not have come as such a surprise. My own panic attacks started when I was eight. But I had always vowed that my own children would never be anxious. Of course, that was before I became a mother, when I still believed that making promises was the same thing as having the power to keep them.

In the end, we worked through the worst of my daughter’s anxiety and these days it is but one, tiny part of her otherwise bright, brave and hugely empathetic personality. And by “hugely empathetic,” I mean preternaturally so. Sometimes, I think my daughter spends more time inhabiting the hearts and minds of others than she does her own.

And the truth is, so do I.

She and I are both hyper-aware of other people’s feelings—friends, family, teachers, flight attendants. Neither of us can bear to be around people arguing, even strangers half a subway car away. Both of us are routinely tortured by how we might have accidentally slighted someone, and read people instantly as kind or unkind, invariably coming to the same (usually ultimately-proven-correct) conclusion.

It is in this connection between my daughter and me that the seed for The Outliers took root. Because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that almost all the women closest to me are exactly the same. We all seem to operate on the same heightened emotional frequency. And many of us lean toward the anxious side of ‘normal,’ whatever that is.

Which led me to wonder: What if women really are more emotional than men? But what if instead of that being some flaw it is actually an untapped strength? What would happen to the world if women could admit that, without it being used to demean us? How powerful could we then become?

And so, while at its heart, The Outliers is a mystery about one young girl trying to overcome her fears and find the strength to search for her missing friend, it’s also about a much broader question: what if women aren’t as strong as men, but they are stronger? Maybe we always have been; we’ve just been looking in the wrong place.

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