“I started thinking,” she told Mr. Hogan, “that if I wasn’t careful, I’d start the story with creatures coming out of the ooze and developing legs.”
Robb Reavill Forman was born on Oct. 26, 1946, in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Her father, Dr. Oliver Duane Forman, was a neurosurgeon, and her mother, Helen Elizabeth Ransom, was a homemaker and worked at the Kenyon College bookstore.
When she was 4 the family moved to Baton Rouge, La., where she grew up, with regular extended summer trips back to Ohio. When she was a senior in high school, she said, she lived for a time with her maternal grandfather, the poet, critic and educator John Crowe Ransom.
“He would read my English themes, which must have bored him terribly,” she told The Missouri Review in 1991, “and I would take it upon myself to give him critiques of his essays on Blake, which I knew nothing about.”
Mrs. Dew attended Louisiana State University for a time and in 1968 married a history professor there, Charles B. Dew. That year he took a job teaching at the University of Missouri, and the couple lived there for a decade. The fictional town of Lunsbury in “The Time of Her Life” was a stand-in for Columbia, Mo., Mrs. Dew admitted, though she changed the name in part to give her the latitude to “invent the weather.”
“I was in Columbia during an amazing ice storm,” she said, “and the river froze over a long period of time. I have telescoped that into three days. I don’t believe a river can freeze that quickly, but I decided it had to for the sake of my book.”