THIS FEATURE HAS A TWO-FOLD PURPOSE: 1. TO ALLOW THOSE RECENTLY ADDED TO OUR FOLLOWER’S LIST TO LEARN ABOUT BOOKS THEY MIGHT HAVE MISSED AND 2. TO MAKE SURE PREVIOUSLY FEATURED AUTHORS AND THEIR WORK AREN’T FORGOTTEN. IF YOU’D LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ANY ONE OF THE BOOKS REVISITED HERE, SIMPLY CLICK ON THE “AUTHOR” PAGE, THEN ON THAT AUTHOR’S NAME.
THE ACCIDENTAL SALVATION OF GRACIE LEE,” BY TALYA TATE BOERNER.
The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee is southern fiction set in the Mississippi River delta region of Arkansas in the 1970s. The protagonist, ten-year-old Gracie Lee Eudora Abbott, is the daughter of a hardworking cotton farmer who, in Gracie’s words, drinks too much beer, is mean as the devil himself, and is probably going to Hell. Mature and perceptive beyond her years, Gracie is unwilling to be seen and not heard. Her mind is crammed packed with questions—simple questions about day-to-day things and bottomless thoughts like why she was born to Lee and Anne Abbott instead of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. As Gracie tries to understand and save the world around her, she often lands in trouble, even in a place where nothing exciting ever happens. Themes of Accidental Salvation include coming of age, loss of innocence, man versus nature, family struggles, end of life issues, isolation, and salvation. There is humor too. Regular, real-life, laugh-out-loud humor.The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee is southern fiction set in the Mississippi River delta region of Arkansas in the 1970s. The protagonist, ten-year-old Gracie Lee Eudora Abbott, is the daughter of a hardworking cotton farmer who, in Gracie’s words, drinks too much beer, is mean as the devil himself, and is probably going to Hell. Mature and perceptive beyond her years, Gracie is unwilling to be seen and not heard. Her mind is crammed packed with questions—simple questions about day-to-day things and bottomless thoughts like why she was born to Lee and Anne Abbott instead of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. As Gracie tries to understand and save the world around her, she often lands in trouble, even in a place where nothing exciting ever happens. Themes of Accidental Salvation include coming of age, loss of innocence, man versus nature, family struggles, end of life issues, isolation, and salvation. There is humor too. Regular, real-life, laugh-out-loud humor.
“RELATIVE STRANGERS,” BY MARGARET HERMES
A collection of short stories, Relative Strangers won the Doris Bakwin Prize for Writing by a Woman and a special second place award in the 2012 Balcones Fiction Prize.
The fourteen stories are thematically linked by their close examination of relationships. In the title story, relatives are shocked by revelations about the buried pasts of family members. In ”Transubstantiation,” a long-wed couple discovers they are strangers to each other. In “Meet Me,” a much younger couple is all too willing to believe they are strangers to each other. “The River’s Daughter” explores an uneasy relationship between siblings: “Even though I came first, once Carrie was on the scene I never came first to mind. I bore the distinction of being both the oldest and an afterthought.” With effort, they’ve managed not to let men come between them, but the river of the title threatens to permanently separate the sisters.
Sometimes the connection, or misconnection, is cross-generational, as in “For the Home Team,” where a boy is sent away to his uncle’s farm during the breakup of his parents’ marriage. When Daniel bemoans his father’s absence and silence over the course of the difficult summer, his uncle replies, “Sure, sure. He is stupid. I mean no disrespect. Men are stupid is all. They don’t know how to act.”
Daniel tells us he was glad to find that he and his uncle were somehow “excluded from this society of morons.”
The characters in Relative Strangers – ranging from a high school valedictorian fascinated by bees to a boy who goes through sexual awakening against a backdrop of bigotry — experience warmth as well as alienation, humor as well as heartache.
“MERCEDES WORE BLACK,” BY ANDREA BRUNAIS
After a news reporter falls victim to her daily’s downsizing, Janis Pearl Hawk becomes a “backpack journalist” supported by an environmentally oriented foundation. Her mandate is to cover the “green” candidate running for Florida governor, but her path takes a twist when the murder of a campaign worker stymies law enforcement. Investigating the murder prompts threats to her well-being and possibly her life – or has she angered other powerful people with her reporting on the gaming industry, Big Pharma and a ship-channel dredging project at Port Manatee?
“MOMMY WRITINGS: MOMMY, WOULD YOU LIKE A SANDWICH?”
“There’s one thing I know – God exists.” At age nineteen, MaryAnne McMillen severed two vital nerves at the base of her skull when she suffered a near fatal fall. This was followed by an out-of-body experience, life after death, in which she heard the words, “It’s not your time.”
When the two nerves fused together, MaryAnne was left in unrelenting, excruciating pain. Being the mother of a young son and married to a philandering brute of a husband when the accident occurred, the family disallowed the use of any medicine because it was against their religion. After fourteen years of agony, doctors were finally able to perform a unique surgery known as intraspinal rhizotomy. This story weaves together the idea of family and faith, while also creating a sense of longing in the reader’s own life for something bigger than themselves. Mommy’s Writings is the extraordinary memoir of the love between a mother and her young son, and a great-grandmother whose intense devotion to the two of them kept their little family together. It is a story of faith in God, of forgiveness and acceptance, and of gratitude.
“PEOPLE AND PEPPERS,” BY KELVIN CHRISTOPHER JAMES.
Gossipy, intimate, and provocative,set in Trinidad and New York City, People and Peppers gives a diverting peek into the nuances of a Caribbean island’s callaloo of inter-racial and multicultural social mores. James’s main characters are complex, motivated, and fun to know. Tall and handsome, the main protagonist, Vivion K Pinheiro, is the bastard of a half-Portuguese, half Afro- Haitian woman, and an attractive New Yorker with carrot-colored hair who danced beautifully. Accomplished as well, Vivion has earned national prestige as a scholar and athlete. As a young man trying to realize dreams, he can be selfish yet thoughtful, deceptive yet generous—no real villain, just a callow fella getting over by pulling the tricky strings of privilege and personal charm.
An important factor in his dream actualization is Vivion’s doting, wealthy mother to whom he confessed an ambition to construct an ecologically sensitive, self-sufficient house on countryside property she bought for him. He imagines the finished structure to be surrounded by a pepper farm that grows Moruga Red Scorpion peppers—the hottest on the planet.
A significant stubbing-stone to his ambitions though, is a habit of dodging difficulties—when the goings get tough, Vivion’s gone. How he deals with this failing is only one serving of this fine novel. Of other satisfying portions is the influence of the women in his life. In earlier novels, James’s female characters have been admirable stalwarts and he doesn’t disappoint here. Andaluza, the mother, is an indulgent one. Nikki, the lover, is a strong other. This empathetic novel superbly speaks to women’s compassion and tolerances in the name of love. So let’s live with Vivion as he discovers and submits to the sublime effects of romantic love and father issues.
“HOMECOMING,” BY KATE HASBROUCK
Writes Kate: “Writing has always been my greatest passion in life. I have written many stories growing up, and Homecoming was a response to my sister’s love of the supernatural stories. It also has a message about forgiveness, and I think that so many people struggle with things that have happened in their life or people who have wronged them, and among other things, this story was written to show people that you can find forgiveness, and that it will set you free.”