Apr 27 2012 7:00 pm
Come celebrate with Sere Prince Halverson, author of The Underside of Joy, Amy Franklin-Willis, author of The Lost Saints of Tennesee, and Melanie Thorne, author of Hand Me Down, as they read from their debut novels on Friday, April 27th at 7:00 p.m.
SERE PRINCE HALVERSON
Set against the backdrop of Redwood forests and shimmering vineyards, Seré Prince Halverson's compelling debut tells the story of two women, bound by an unspeakable loss, who each claims to be the mother of the same two children.
To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the northern California river town of Elbow with her husband, Joe, and his two young children. Yet one summer day Joe breaks his own rule-never turn your back on the ocean-and a sleeper wave strikes him down, drowning not only the man but his many secrets.
For three years, Ella has been the only mother the kids have known and has believed that their biological mother, Paige, abandoned them. But when Paige shows up at the funeral, intent on reclaiming the children, Ella soon realizes there may be more to Paige and Joe's story. "Ella's the best thing that's happened to this family," say her close-knit Italian-American in-laws, for generations the proprietors of a local market. But their devotion quickly falters when the custody fight between mother and stepmother urgently and powerfully collides with Ella's quest for truth.
The Underside of Joy is not a fairy-tale version of stepmotherhood pitting good Ella against evil Paige, but an exploration of the complex relationship of two mothers. Their conflict uncovers a map of scars-both physical and emotional-to the families' deeply buried tragedies, including Italian internment camps during World War II and postpartum psychosis.
Weaving a rich fictional tapestry abundantly alive with the glorious natural beauty of the novel's setting, Halverson is a captivating guide through the flora and fauna of human emotion-grief and anger, shame and forgiveness, happiness and its shadow complement . . . the underside of joy.
AMY FRANKLIN WILLIS
With enormous heart and dazzling agility, Amy Franklin-Willis expertly mines the fault lines in one Southern working-class family. Driven by the soulful voices of forty-two-year-old Ezekiel Cooper and his mother, Lillian, The Lost Saints of Tennessee journeys from the 1940s to 1980s as it follows Zeke’s evolution from anointed son, to honorable sibling, to unhinged middle-aged man.
After Zeke loses his twin brother in a mysterious drowning and his wife to divorce, only ghosts remain in his hometown of Clayton, Tennessee. Zeke makes the decision to leave town in a final attempt to escape his pain, throwing his two treasured possessions—a copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and his dead brother’s ancient dog—into his truck, and heads east. He leaves behind two young daughters and his estranged mother, who reveals her own conflicting view of the Cooper family story in a vulnerable but spirited voice stricken by guilt over old sins and clinging to the hope that her family isn’t beyond repair.
When Zeke finds refuge with cousins in Virginia horse country, divine acts in the form of severe weather, illness, and a new romance collide, leading Zeke to a crossroads where he must decide the fate of his family.
A tough, tender, debut novel, in the tradition of Dorothy Allison and Janet Fitch, Hand Me Down is the unforgettable story of a girl who travels between California and Utah in search of her true family, having never been loved best of all.
Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Reid has spent her life protecting her sister, Jaime, from their parents' cruel mistakes. Their father, who'd rather work the system than a job, pours every dollar into his many vices, denying his daughters the shoes and clothing they need. Their mother, once a loving parent, is going through a post-post-adolescent rebellious streak and finds love with a dangerous ex-con. When she chooses starting a new family over raising her first-born girls, Elizabeth and Jaime are separated and forced to rely on the begrudging kindness of increasingly distant relatives.
A string of broken promises that begins with Liz's mother swearing, "I would never hurt you, Liz. You're family," propels her between guest beds in two states searching for a safe home. All the while, Liz is burdened by her stake in a bleak pact with a deceitful adult: to tell the truth about the darkest of her circumstances will cost her the ability to shelter Jaime. As Liz spirals into the abyss of fear and shame that haunts her sleepless nights, can she break free from her bonds in time to fight for her life?
Thorne writes with a command of language that is at once affecting and enticing. Her debut is the kind of voice-driven reading experience fiction lovers crave.
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