THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOK, “SKATING ON THE VERTICAL,” BY JAN ENGLISH LEARY, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THE FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY. OR, JUST CLICK THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE.
THE BOOK: Clara at the Edge
PUBLISHED IN: November, 2017
THE AUTHOR: Maryl Jo Fox
THE PUBLISHER: She Writes Press
SUMMARY: Can a rowdy purple wasp, a spirit guide with amazing powers, help Clara confront her past and join life again . . . or is it too late?
At seventy-three, eccentric widow Clara Breckenridge is on a last-ditch journey to to reconcile with her estranged son, finally confront the guilty secrets surrounding her daughter’s death, and maybe find love again before she dies miserable and alone. Rigid and scared, Clara is cocooned in her old house to escape from life. Magic purple wasps saved her as a child from an abusive father and they want to help her now, but wasps only live 120 days and time is running out. When her beloved house is slated for demolition, she insists her son haul the house from Eugene to Jackpot, Nevada, where her orderly life is turned upside down by two troubled young people.
At times surprising and comical, Clara struggles with a past she has to face.
THE BACK STORY: I wanted to write a book about an older character. The passion of living affects every person, no matter how old. Sometimes I wonder if this passion intensifies as we get older. I think it’s a disservice to assume that this life force becomes weak as we age. I wanted to show an older woman in full throttle as she learns the high stakes of staying alive in any meaningful way for herself.
WHY THIS TITLE: Clara is forced to a breaking point. She must change or lose any hope of love and reconciliation. I felt that Clara was truly at the edge. She must change or fall off a precipice into isolation.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: All of us, at least all of us of “a certain age” have regrets and secrets that we don’t want to deal with. Clara at the Edge tries to follow an older woman who wants to face her deepest fears, but is terrified of doing so. It is a challenge for all of us.
“Clara at the Edge is a weird and engaging story of a widow, some wasps, and a traumatic past, a story that explores the importance of human connection.
“Seventy-three-year-old widow Clara Breckenridge takes up her home, which is scheduled for demolition, to tow it to Jackpot, Nevada. Along for the ride are her estranged adult son, Frank, and a magic swarm of wasps. Those wasps once defended Clara from her abusive father, and they have been her protectors ever since.
“During her unique journey, Clara must face her deepest fears and unlock her internal secrets. She reluctantly attempts to reconnect with her family, find a path to happiness, and satisfy her magic protectors before they fade forever.
“Clara is a fascinating, feisty character whose magical wasps seem to function as a subconscious outlet. Now at the end of her life, Clara has spent forty years alone; her wasps drive her to unshackle herself from this self-imposed isolation. When she is confronted by violent youths attacking her and her home, Clara puts her own safety aside in the hopes of preventing a dark future.
“The writing is haunting and lyrical, and frequently ripples with humor and heart. Clara’s is not the only lens through which events are seen; the perspectives of her son, the locals in Jackpot, and a potential love interest also play in. Subtly shifting points of view give the narrative a dreamlike feel, but they also help to anchor its otherworldly aspects. For example, while the purple wasps at first seem like hallucinations or signs of a fractured mind, it becomes evident that most of the people around Clara also notice their strange behaviors and colorations. It is clear that there is an outside force pushing Clara.
“Enchantingly languid pacing serves as a counterpoint to the story’s ever-present countdown: even if the truth about the wasps and Clara’s fate isn’t clear at first, there’s less than a month to root it out. Clara truly is as the edge of something greater than herself. As she finds herself surrounded by new friends, estranged family, and the ghosts of those she lost, Clara’s story unspools in a compelling and engaging way. — Foreword Reviews
“In her seven decades on earth, Clara Breckenridge has survived the untimely loss of her husband, the tragic death of her daughter just months later, and now, in her waning years, a ruthless displacement from her home by unfazed city developers. But Clara is unshakable. She loads her house–its aging structure in all its glory–onto a flatbed truck and moves it closer to her son, Frank, in Nevada. Throughout his adulthood, Frank and Clara have maintained a complicated estrangement. Clara, feeling daunted by the task of laying straight her failures as a mother, is empowered by the magically real colony of wasps that has followed and protected her since adolescence. Regardless of whether or not the buzzing morsels of wisdom exist outside her head, Clara is determined to pull her son (and herself) back into the magic circle of love that has been empty since his father and sister passed. In alternating, omniscient, wasp-on-the-wall perspectives, Fox’s writing says yes to every surreal and absurd possibility life offers.” — BOOKLIST
“Who knew wasps could be protectors, champions, and the best friends a girl ever had? Maryl Jo Fox has written a wild, enchanting, constantly surprising story of one woman’s resilience, courage, and redemption through what may be a kind of magical insanity. Clara At the Edge kept me buzzing on every page.” — Diana Wagman, author of Life #6, The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets
“This dazzling combination of riotous imagination with bottomless compassion makes this such a stellar debut. Readers will surely remember Clara and her crew— they are utterly distinct, and beautifully realized.” — Aimee Bender, author of The Color Master, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and four others.
“We will follow Clara anywhere.” — Walter Kirn has written 8 books, most recently Up in the Air and Blood Will Out.
AUTHOR PROFILE: I am a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and I have an M.A. in English from the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana. My short fiction has appeared in Bat City Review, Passages North, Southwester and other periodicals. I reviewed theater for the Los Angeles Weekly and the Los Angeles Reader. My writing has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and other periodicals. I have taught English at Glendale Community College, Pasadena City College and other colleges in the Los Angeles area.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: I spent 12 years writing this book. I work very intuitively step by step and this results in a very long gestation process with numerous dead-ends and detours, but I also hope it has led to a richly detailed narrative.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). https://maryljofox.com/story-excerpts/
LOCAL OUTLETS: Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, Ca.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Indiebooks, Barnes and Noble, Amazon