By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
July 11, 2011 12:00 PM

Storytelling-when Al and Tipper Gore would read or invent tales with their children at bedtime-showed Kristin Gore she wanted to be a writer. “It got me addicted to that feeling of being transported through words,” says the author. More recently, it was storytelling-this time at a family Christmas in Tennessee-that proved to Gore and her siblings that their now famously separated parents were going to be fine. “We took turns telling stories about growing up,” she recalls. “I’m just grateful that my parents still love each other. They’re both happy, and I don’t have to worry about them.”

It’s a relatively new personal equilibrium for Gore, 34, now out with her third novel, Sweet Jiminy. Gore’s own four-year marriage ended in divorce in June 2009, just a year before her parents announced their separation after 40 years of marriage. “There wasn’t divorce in our family,” Gore says. “It really rattled me.” But being all together last Christmas, and again for a lakeside vacation in June, crystallized for her that, really, only the label on her parents’ relationship had changed. Not divorced (“Not in their plans at all”) and not dating (“I can’t imagine it”), they are just living different lives: Al in Nashville, “trying to save the world” from global warming; Tipper focusing on her photography in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Gore herself is trying on a different style with Jiminy. About unsolved civil-rights-era murders, it’s a departure from the comic chops that won her an Emmy as a writer for Saturday Night Live. “I saw a different side of her, a serious, deep, empathetic side,” says her mother.

Gore’s empathy extends to children now in the kind of political glare she escaped after her father lost the 2000 presidential election. “It’s not a life I’d want for my family,” she says. “The scrutiny can be intense, and it’s gotten a lot worse.” So she’s happy working on screenplays and novels in her Manhattan apartment, mere subway stops from sister Karenna and brother Albert (now thriving in business, she says, after drug treatment in 2007). “Life is good for the Gore family,” she says, “which is a nice thing to be able to report.”