This week’s other featured book, David Taylor’s “Success: Stories,” can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the monthly First Tuesday Replay. Or, just click the author’s name on our Author’s page.
THE BOOK: The Outcast Oracle.
PUBLISHED IN: 2013.
THE AUTHOR: Laury A. Egan.
THE PUBLISHER: Humanist Press (the publishing house of the American Humanist Association).
SUMMARY: Set in 1959 on the shores of New York’s Lake Ontario, fourteen-year-old Charlene Beth Whitestone has been deserted by her parents, leaving her in the custody of her grandfather, C.B. Although he loves Charlie, he is a charming con artist, moonshiner, and religious fraud who inducts her into his various enterprises yet also encourages her dreams of becoming a writer. When C.B. suddenly dies, Charlie is left alone and must use her wits and resourcefulness to take charge of her life, all the while wrestling with the morality of continuing her grandfather’s schemes. When a handsome cowboy-stranger, Blake, arrives, he insinuates himself into C.B.’s religion business and into Charlie’s heart. Despite her resistance, Blake mounts a lucrative PR campaign, touting Charlie as an “oracle” and arranging for her to perform miracles.
The story is recounted by Charlie with wry humor and a keen awareness of human foibles. A smart and independent girl, she battles abandonment, social rejection, sexual pressure, her family’s alcoholism and amorality, finally discovering her strengths and identity. Similar in tone to books by Mark Twain, The Outcast Oracle pokes fun at organized religion and people’s gullibility.
THE BACK STORY: As with some of my novels and stories, a “voice” came to me one day. In this case, it was Charlie’s, who had a distinct style and cadence that is not my own. The experience feels a little like channeling, though I have no idea how or why this happens. Right away I liked her and greatly enjoyed the many months I spent in Charlie’s delightful company. An additional inspiration was the setting near Lake Ontario outside of Rochester. I had spent time there visiting a poet friend, and the area caught my imagination.
WHY THIS TITLE?: Charlie, the main character, wants to be a writer and—as many writers are—tends to be introverted and solitary, somewhat rejected by her classmates. When she is set up as a seer, against her wishes, the two elements come together. The Outcast Oracle is a perfect title for this book.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The novel is marketed to young adults as well as adults much in the same way Mark Twain’s titles cross between the two age groups and appeal to both. Bright and creative teen girls will find this novel entertaining and its heroine a kindred spirit, but older readers will enjoy the humor and story as well. This is also a portrait of a young and developing writer and illustrates some of the personality traits and social/familial experiences that may fuse together and create a creative person.
“Egan tells the story in Charlie’s first-person countrified style, but with True Grit–style lofty grammar and sentence structure, in keeping with Charlie’s abundant talent. It’s this highly literary, easily accessible writing that lifts this story to the very top of the heap. Simply delicious fun from start to finish.”— Kirkus Reviews
“A deftly woven plot populated by memorable characters make The Outcast Oracle a riveting read from beginning to end. A kind of updated “Elmer Gantry” style novel, The Outcast Oracle is very highly recommended for young readers ages 14 and up. An entertaining and literarily elegant work of contemporary fiction.”— Midwest Review of Books
“Readers will fall for Egan’s coming-of-age story, hook, line and sinker. It’s unusual and different, and displays the author’s wild imagination and vast vocabulary. Egan captures the essence of an innocent teenager and the turn of a decade (the 1960s) perfectly. YA fans will relate to the special relationship C.B. and Charlie share. There’s many ups and down will confuse your emotions, but the humorous undertone allows for comic relief when needed most.”—RT Book Reviews
“…a page-turning tour de force, full of humor, irony, winks at societal conventions, and serious revelations about the ruses and abuses of organized religion. This lively tale stars Charlene “Charlie” Beth Whitestone, an all-American teenage girl grappling with the pain of growing up, feeling alone, and finding her path through a thicket of family disasters. Hers will be one of the most enduring voices of contemporary fiction—humanist, feminist, or otherwise. She’ll make you think; she’ll make you laugh out loud.”—Karla Linn Merrifield, author of Lithic Scatter and Other Poems.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Similar to the heroine of my novel, I grew up in a beautiful natural environment, though one in New Jersey, with a view of the Atlantic Ocean and forests. Oracle is not autobiographical in the details, but I was also a solitary child who found solace and meaning in writing, which I began at age seven with a poem and then a novel at age thirteen. My observer/loner experience—shared by Charlie—seems to be common to many creative people.
Although I’ve worked in publishing all my adult life, it was only during the last twenty years that I have seriously returned to my childhood passion, writing. I now have the great fortune to be able to write full-time. My first novel was a psychological suspense, Jenny Kidd, set in Venice and written in the tradition of Patricia Highsmith. A collection, Fog and Other Stories, came next and contained mostly work that had been published in literary journals. The Outcast Oracle followed, with a comedy, Fabulous! An Opera Buffa, released in September 2018, and a literary suspense, Wave in D Minor, contracted for 2019. Interspersed with the fiction are four limited-edition poetry collections: Snow, Shadows, a Stranger; Beneath the Lion’s Paw; The Sea & Beyond; and Presence & Absence (available through my website).
AUTHOR COMMENTS: The idea of creating a character who was a non-believer (like myself) and sympathetic was intriguing. I wanted to address religiosity with a bit of a tongue-in-cheek style that was inoffensive but also made points. For teenage readers, my goal was to provide support for those who feel they are different, who struggle with the need to conform to their peer groups and yet who simply can’t quite fit. Showing this conflict and how Charlie sets her own unique course despite various pressures will, hopefully, give hope to many.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: A sample chapter is available at Humanist Press: http://www.humanistpress.com/outcast-oracle.html and on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Outcast-Oracle-Laury-Egan/dp/0931779367/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1539981687&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Outcast+Oracle
WHERE TO BUY IT: Humanist Press: http://www.humanistpress.com/outcast-oracle.html Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Outcast-Oracle-Laury-Egan/dp/0931779367/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1539981687&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Outcast+Oracle Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-outcast-oracle-laury-a-egan/1117001989?ean=9780931779367
PRICE: Paperback: $13.95 (at the publisher) eBook: $7.99.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: I would be delighted to hear from readers of The Outcast Oracle or my other titles. Contact me through my website: http://www.lauryaegan.com (or for more information about my poetry collections.) My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/laury.egan and blog: http://www.lauryaeganblog.wordpress.com.