ST. BONAVENTURE — As a psychologist, Kimberly Young has counseled men and women struggling with extramarital attractions and understands the emotional conflicts endured by those who deeply value fidelity but still feel the pull of falling in love with another.
Those experiences led Young to craft her first novel, “The Eighth Wonder,” a love story about an ambitious college professor and an older man. The story takes place in Bradford, Pa., around the Kinzua Bridge (once dubbed The Eighth Wonder of the World) and includes factual settings throughout.
The main character, Dr. Nicole Benson, 35, has moved to Bradford from New York City with her Ph.D. from NYU to be near her ailing father and dreams of teaching at an Ivy-League school; she meets an older man, Tom Ryan, 43, married 23 years and shattered after the death of his daughter to leukemia.
Like Nicole, Young was the first generation in her family to go to college, and spent the early part of her adult life driven by career goals.
Now a professor of management at St. Bonaventure University and an internationally known expert on Internet addiction, Young arrived in Bradford in 1995. She had sought a faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford to be near her father, who lived in Buffalo and was ill with pancreatic cancer.
“Using my own experience on how I came to Bradford seemed like a good place to start my novel,” she said.
Fast forward to 2002: Young was still reeling from her father’s death when she faced a medical scare of her own. Detached retinas in both eyes led to surgery, followed by four months’ recovery at home.
Homebound and ordered to keep physical exertion to a minimum as she endured the slow recovery process, Young felt she began “channeling some deeper part of me. That was my moment to converse with the characters. They told me where to go with the story.”
Young had always wanted to write a novel, and her medical restrictions meant she was facing a lot of isolated time. Her writing became her therapy.
“I wasn’t allowed to leave the house. It was just me and my thoughts and my computer,” Young said. “I was scared about being blind. This kept me from thinking about it.”
The first draft of the book, completed in just four months, focused mainly on Nicole. Several years would pass before Young gave serious thought to publishing the book.
“I needed to figure out Tom, a devoted family man who lost a child and what kind of feelings he experienced when he meets someone that he emotionally and intellectually connects with,” she said.
A sought-after speaker and media resource on Internet addiction, Young has authored numerous articles, book chapters and books on the topic, but “The Eighth Wonder” tapped into her more creative and personal side.
“I am most proud of this book. This is my heart,” she said.
Young has found men and women have both been able to connect with the novel. Women, perhaps pressing mid-life, see themselves in an earlier time as Nicole. To men, Tom is a relatable guy. He’s in a committed relationship but he hadn’t planned on meeting someone like Nicole.
“Tom has never been happier or more conflicted. Tom falls in love for the second time in his life,” said Young.
“The book is dealing with loss and self-discovery. I wanted it to be very human. It’s difficult to fall in love when you’re older … and Tom has a really hard choice to make. I think he goes through those emotions realistically,” she said.
Young had written the skeleton of the book before she wove in the Kinzua Bridge setting.
“The Kinzua Bridge was new to me,” she said. “When I saw the bridge online, it was a flash and I knew it was the perfect setting.”
When the Kinzua Bridge was built in 1882 it was an engineering masterpiece and the highest railroad bridge in the world (301 feet). Partially destroyed by a tornado in 2003, a new pedestrian walkway opened in 2011, offering visitors stunning views of the Kinzua Gorge.
“The Eighth Wonder” is available at the St. Bonaventure University Bookstore, online at Amazon.com and as an e-book. Learn more about “The Eighth Wonder” on Young’s blog, kimberlyyoung.net.
About the University: Inspired for more than 150 years by the Catholic Franciscan values of individual dignity, community inclusiveness, and service, St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them.