A Career Driven Woman

As I mentioned, The Eighth Wonder focused on how I came to be in Bradford after finishing my doctorate. Unlike Nicole, who graduated from NYU with her Ph.D. in Political Science, my doctorate was from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Clinical Psychology.

I felt the same struggles as Nicole. I was 30 years old and alone. It was not easy at first. I felt like a failure. Many of my friends from high school and college were married and many had children, while I did not have anyone. I had just broken up with a long-term boyfriend. I had marriage proposals. Like Nicole, at that time, I just couldn’t commit.

I also had student loan debt and I did not pick a career that was going to lead to big money. I gave up a business career to go into psychology. Again, like Nicole, at that time, I wondered if I did the right thing.

I look back now, several years later, I realize that I did do the right thing. The Eighth Wonder is more than a love story between Nicole and Tom. It is a journey that Nicole is forced to take when she questions why she had given up marriage and children, things that every woman should want. Triggered by her father’s illness, the one anchor in her life after her mother left the family, she senses how alone in the world she has become. She doesn’t have a husband to lean on nor does she want to feel that dependent upon anyone. We see her fears unravel the more she becomes close to Tom. It is the first time she has ever been that vulnerable with a man.

The story focuses on Nicole’s ambition to teach at an Ivy-League school, something I had thought about after I graduated with my doctorate. It wasn’t until I started teaching at a small college that I realized how much I loved it over any big university.  Tom helps Nicole analyze her own ambition. Being ambitious himself before his daughter died, he realized that there was more to life after her death. We see this in Tom from the beginning with his focus on the community and giving back. Nicole is too wrapped up in her own issues.

Ultimately, The Eighth Wonder is a story about self-discovery as Tom helps Nicole realize what is most important in life, and that life is not always about money, status, or prestige but it is about being content at where you are in life and who you are as a person.

The Eighth Wonder

Nicole Benson is a self-made woman. She put herself through school, sacrificing marriage and children for her career. In the summer of 1997, at the age of 35, she finally graduated with a Ph.D. from NYU, but her life is thrust into chaos when her father, the only person she’s ever leaned on emotionally, is diagnosed with terminal cancer. After fifteen years in New York City, Nicole leaves everything and everyone she knows to teach for a year in rural Bradford, Pennsylvania to be close to her father in nearby Buffalo. Now, trapped in tiny Bradford, she has never felt more alone in her life. . . until she meets Tom Ryan.

At 44, Tom represents what Nicole longs to be: settled, secure, and clear about his purpose and direction in life. Emotionally scarred, he and his wife of 23 years survived the death of their daughter to leukemia. Tom and Nicole’s story begins as a journey of self-discovery for both of them but turns to bittersweet tragedy when their friendship becomes love. Nicole risks offering what she has never given before, her heart; and Tom has never felt happier or more conflicted when he falls in love for the second time in his life. Their lives become intertwined and changed forever when they both must make the most difficult decision of their lives.