The Best Southern Books

As it appears on Shepherd: Best Books

https://shepherd.com/best-books/southern-books

Claire Fullerton Author Of Mourning DoveBy Claire Fullerton

Who am I?

I’m the multiple, award-winning author of 4 novels and one novella, raised in Memphis, Tennessee, and now living in Southern California. The geographical distance gives me a laser-sharp, appreciative perspective of the South, and I celebrate the literary greats from the region. The South is known as the last romantic place in America, and I believe this to be true. The South’s culture, history, and social mores are part and parcel to its fascinating characters, and nothing is more important in the South than the telling of a good story. As a writer, I’m in love with language. I love Southern turns of phrase and applaud those writers who capture Southern nuance. It is well worth writing about Southern sensibilities.


I wrote…

Mourning Dove

By Claire Fullerton

Mourning Dove

What is my book about?

An accurate and heart-wrenching picture of the sensibilities of the American South. Millie and Finley Crossan move from Minnesota to their mother’s genteel world of 1970’s Memphis and learn to navigate the social mores of the Deep South, where all that glitters is not gold. Southern nuance, charismatic characters, a sibling relationship, and an opulent setting underlie this 13-time book award winner that asks how it is that two siblings who share the same history can turn out so differently. 

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The Books I Picked & Why

The Prince of Tides

By Pat Conroy

The Prince of Tides

Why this book?

A resounding Southern family saga. A sins-of-the-father story told in the first person by one of the South’s most revered authors. The Prince of Tides is set on a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina and depicts the haunting secrets of the working class Wingo family in a multi-generational story rife with Southern nuance and now considered a literary classic. The story opens when narrator Tom Wingo flies from the South to New York to meet with his sister’s psychiatrist, and the astounding family saga unfolds from there. 


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Peachtree Road

By Anne Rivers Siddons

Peachtree Road

Why this book?

Peachtree Road is considered a modern-day Gone with The Wind, in that it is set in the pivotal, changing times of 1960’s Atlanta, and concerns the opulent area of Buckhead, where the privileged who built modern-day Atlanta live. The story is narrated in lyrical language by Shep Bondurant, an insightful young man born to privilege, who tells the coming-of-age story of Southern traditions and hypocrisy, and the impact of growing up alongside his troubled cousin, Lucy. A deeply probing story on multiple levels concerning society and the impact of family. 


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Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories

By Ron Rash

Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories

Why this book?

Ron Rash is a national, literary treasure. The author of multiple award-winning novels, this book is an assembly of 34 short stories, most set in Appalachia, and depicting the social nuances and landscape of the American rural South. I recommend this because it will provide a great introduction to the incomparable author known as The Appalachian Shakespeare. As a writer, Ron Rash epitomizes the idea of landscape as destiny, and his well-drawn characters come to life from his flawless use of regional language. 


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All Over But the Shoutin’

By Rick Bragg

All Over But the Shoutin'

Why this book?

Pulitzer prize-winning and best-selling author Rick Bragg depicts hardscrabble, family life in rural Alabama, with a bad-tempered, hard-drinking father and a mother who won’t see her children go without. Bragg’s honest voice is immediate and compelling, and the visceral feel of the setting is the perfect backdrop for this rags to riches story of a man who triumphs over adversity to become a widely acclaimed writer. Bragg’s use of Southern vernacular is what makes this story. 


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The Fighter

By Michael Farris Smith

The Fighter

Why this book?

The Fighter is Southern noir at its best, and the spare, economic voice of the narrator adds to the guttural bleakness of a man down on his luck but willing to persevere against all odds. Set in the sultry Delta, Jack Boucher has put behind him 25 years of bare-knuckle fighting but is given cause to step into the ring one more time. A dark desperation colors this popular novel, and readers will be shown why Michael Farris Smith is considered one of the finest writers now on the American literary landscape.   


https://shepherd.com/best-books/southern-books

The Author of Mourning Dove Reads From her Book.

I had the immense pleasure of narrating the audiobook of my novel, Mourning Dove, which is set on the genteel side of 1970’s Memphis, and concerns two siblings who come to the Deep South as outsiders and learn to navigate the customs and social mores of what is, to them, a foreign land. Mourning Dove is the recipient of 13 book awards and is classified as upmarket fiction, meaning that which bridges the genres of commercial and literary fiction, and to that I’ll add that lovers of Southern fiction have embraced this book as well.

Since I narrated the audiobook, I’m sharing a bit of video as well to give you a more immersive experience, which will hopefully parlay the full intention of Mourning Dove’s mood and feel. The audiobook is available on Audible! http://bitly.ws/jdX4

Author Interview: Claire Fullerton, Little Tea

by maryhelensheriff | Sep 27, 2021 | Interviews

Claire Fullerton is the multiple award winning author of 4 traditionally published novels and one novella. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Celtic Life International, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.  Website: https://www.clairefullerton.com/

Me: Tell us about Little Tea.

ClaireLittle Tea concerns Southern culture, female friendships, family tragedy, and healing the past. Little Tea is actually the nickname of a character because Southerners are fond of nicknames! The story is a celebration of those deep friendships that last a lifetime–their shared history, loyalty, unconditional acceptance, and the importance of a sense of humor. 

Me: Which scene was the most difficult to write and why?

Claire: There’s a particular scene in Little Tea that is pivotal in the story. I’d never had such an experience, so I used my imagination and employed all senses. The scene came together for me when I incorporated how the atmosphere sounded. 

Me: How does the Southern setting influence your story?

Claire:  Southern culture is part and parcel to Little Tea. I’ll go as far to say had the story been set anywhere else, the events couldn’t have happened as they did. 

Me: Describe your journey to becoming an author.

Claire: It began for me with keeping a daily journal from a very young age. I kept a journal when I lived on the west coast of Ireland. When I returned to America, I wrote the book that became Dancing to an Irish Reel from what was in my journal. It’s been a steady build from there that includes 4 novels, one novella, and a recently completed manuscript. 

Me:  Who has been your greatest influence in becoming a writer?

Claire: All the fearless writers who dare to write in the first person!  Beyond that, I admire Donna Tartt, Pat Conroy, Ron Rash, Anne Rivers Siddons, Billy O’Callaghan, and many of the Irish authors. 

To buy click here.

For more about Little Tea and a few other sensational southern books, read this blog post

Book Introduction: Boop and Eve’s Road Trip by Mary Helen Sheriff!

Boop and Eve's Road Trip: A Novel

Book Description:

Eve Prince is done—with college, with her mom, with guys, and with her dream of fashion design. But when her best friend goes MIA, Eve must gather together the broken threads of her life in order to search for her.

When Eve’s grandmother, Boop, a retiree dripping with Southern charm, finds out about the trip, she—desperate to see her sister, and also hoping to alleviate Eve’s growing depression—hijacks her granddaughter’s road trip. Boop knows from experience that healing Eve will require more than flirting lessons and a Garlic Festival makeover. Nevertheless, Boop is frustrated when her feeble efforts yield the same failure that her sulfur-laced sip from the Fountain of Youth wrought on her age. She knows that sharing the secret that’s haunted her for sixty years might be the one thing that will lessen Eve’s growing depression—but she also fears that if she reveals it, she’ll lose her family and her own hard-won happiness.

2020 American Fiction Awards Winner in Coming of Age
2021 Eric Hoffer Montaigne Medal Finalist
2021 Eric Hoffer Category Finalist
Buzzfeed’s 12 Most Anticipated Books of Fall
Popsugar’s “The 21 Most Exciting New Releases Hitting Bookshelves Throughout October”
Parade’s “Highly Anticipated Books of Fall”
Frolic’s “Ten Books Perfect for Your Book Club”

“A touching intergenerational romp through the coastal South.”
Kirkus Reviews

Endorsements:

Boop and Eve’s Road Trip will touch your heart. A beautiful and emotional story of sisterhood, family, and friendship. From the first page, Mary Helen Sheriff’s lush and lyrical writing draws you in. Fans of Patti Callahan Henry and Kristy Woodson Harvey will adore this debut.”

–Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Last Summer

Boop and Eve’s Road Trip is warm, witty, and wise, with characters I loved and characters I loved to hate. Filled with twists and turns and many a bump in the road, this trip is a delight from beginning to end.”
–Han Nolan, National Book Award-winning author of Dancing on the Edge

Meet Mary Helen Sheriff

When I was a kid I wanted to be a model, an actress, a teacher, and a writer. Lack of height, smoking good looks, and talent lost the first two of those professions for me, but I’ve had the pleasure of exploring the latter two.

I’ve spent 14 years in classrooms teaching elementary school, middle school, college, and professionals. 

During this time, I’ve also had the pleasure of dabbling in writing for children, teenagers, and adults in a variety of forms including fiction, poetry, blogs, and nonfiction. I even spent several summers immersed in an MFA program in children’s literature at Hollins University (which I suppose isn’t exactly dabbling).

I’m taking a break from the classroom to concentrate on my writing. My debut southern women’s fiction, Boop and Eve’s Road Trip, was published on October 6, 2020

Great E-Book Deal!

Ebook on sale for the first time ever! Boop and Eve’s Road Trip was just nominated for a Zibby Award for best opening sentence: “Boop loved her daughter to the moon and back, but Justine had a way of sucking the joy out of a room faster than a vampire bat.”
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Mary Helen Sheriff on WordPress!
Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys August Book Club Selection!
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Sensations Summer Reads

As it appears on Mary Helen Sheriff’s July, 19 Blog

by maryhelensheriff | Jul 19, 2021 | Book Lists

It won’t surprise you to learn that the author of Boop and Eve’s Road (that’s me for the uninitiated) loves herself a smashing southern story.  I’ve put together a refreshingly diverse list here–all southern, all sensational, but so very, very different.  Do yourself a favor and pick up one (or heck y’all, all three of these reads).

Purple Lotus by Veena Rao is the story of Tara who immigrates from India to Atlanta, Georgia to be with her husband Sanjay. Theirs is a horribly ill-suited arranged marriage. Tara finds herself lost in a new country with an abusive husband and an unfortunate lack of self confidence. Eventually, she makes friends in her new community giving her the courage to leave her husband and make her own life in her new country.  Some might argue that Purple Lotus is more of an immigrant story than a southern story, but I’d point out that Rao beautifully captures the experience of someone fresh to the South, that the south is more than its traditions, that the South with its world renown hospitality has room for all.  Tara’s story of empowerment will steal your heart.  Don’t miss it.

Sharp as a Serpent’s Tooths the best collection of short stories I have ever read.  The characters, like June Bug and Eva, are delightful, quirky, and engaging.  The plots are mesmerizing, unique, and page-turning. The southern country setting adds texture and delight with its Pentecostal Preachers, snakes, and speaking in tongues. Mandy Haynes has put together a beautiful collection with a southern voice that drawls off the page. 

Little Tea by Claire Fullerton explores some of the more traditional southern motifs, complete with plantation homes and racial tension. Three childhood friends come together at a lake in Arkansas where an old boyfriend forces them to face the past. Through the voice of the main character, Celia Wakefield, Fullerton explores the evolution of racial relations in Mississippi. White daughter of a wealthy old southern family, Celia befriends the daughter of the black couple who runs her family’s plantation.  Tucked away in the country in 1980s, their friendship flourishes. However, once the friends leave the plantation behind it becomes more difficult to navigate a mixed-race friendship in a world not quite ready for such things. 

If you are a fan of all things Southern, you might also enjoy these posts:

Book Clubs that Travel: Boop and Eve’s Road Trip

A Literary Care Package for Southern Mamas

Where to Eat on Your Road Trip Through the South

Join us via Facebook here:

WEDNESDAY, JULY 21, 2021 AT 4 PM PDT

Author Road Show “Southern Fiction: There’s No Place Like Home”

The aforementioned authors will talk about the South, and what makes Southern fiction!

Free  · Online Event

The Original Post by Mary Helen Sheriff

https://linktr.ee/cffullerton

Thank you to NFReads! Interview With Author Claire Fullerton

NFREADS.COM

Articles by and interviews with guests ranging from best-selling authors and award-winning filmmakers to leading professors, scientists, politicians and more!

#Interesting #Informative #Inspiring #Interviews #Articles

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I’m Claire Fullerton, the traditionally published author of  Little TeaMourning DoveDancing to an Irish Reel, and A Portal in Time. I also have a novella titled, Through an Autumn Window, which is included in the book, A Southern Season: Scenes from a Front Porch Swing. I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and now live in Malibu, California. 

# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

There are no “real-life” stories in my novels, though I draw from a strong sense of place and am inspired by people and events I know. 

# What inspires/inspired your creativity?

People are always my inspiration, My last two novels are set in the Deep South, and the South has such wonderfully colorful characters that are part and parcel to the Southern culture. I think all stories happen because of the people involved, so my inspiration comes from simply paying attention to people’s mannerisms, the stories they tell, and their way with words. 

# How do you deal with creative block?

Full Interview Here: Interview With Author Claire Fullerton (nfreads.com)

May be an image of one or more people and book

YouTube: Books, Interviews, Malibu Beach Videos and More!

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6QbvYwbKM71znGk5zZBb-Q

https://linktr.ee/cffullerton

Sharp as a Serpent’s Tooth by Mandy Haynes.

In Mandy Haynes’s collection of Southern tinged short stories, Sharp as a Serpent’s Tooth, characters are as different as Jayhawks and Starlings, they grin like possums, and, if in need while in someone’s bad graces, are told they can go get what they want “their own dang self.” Throughout the assembly of Haynes’s five, compelling stories, her character-intensive narrative is urgent and breathless, so regionally pitch-perfect as to feel indiscreet:

“Now don’t roll your eyes at me,” the narrator of short story, Junebug Fischer says. “You know dang good and well Rita’s daughter did not get pregnant on her honeymoon. And you know same as me that she shouldn’t have married that no count Tucker, pregnant or not.”

Sharp as a Serpent’s Tooth is laser-sharp, finely wrought fiction in each stand alone story. In “Eva,” the abused daughter of a con-artist preacher is depicted with such Southern Gothic surrealism as to make her seem other-worldly. In “Plans for Sweet Lorraine,” a fearlessly headstrong mother is led by gut-intuition to rescue her innocent daughter from the clutches of a smooth-talking charlatan posing as a man of God.

In each story, the narrator’s voice is chock full of gumption– the sure-footed kind grown and fostered in the hollows of the rural South. They are all unique, memorable narrators. In “The Day I threw the Rock,” the young, red-haired narrator prefers to go barefoot in overalls, in whose pocket she keeps a garden snake as she unfurls the high-drama of events that lead to her throwing the eponymous rock. In “Cussing Snakes and Candy Cigarettes,” a young girl defies common, local opinion of her dead mother’s twin sister, in an eye-opening summer that impacts her coming of age.

Author Mandy Haynes approaches her craft with an uncanny grasp on pace in perfect measure. Her authentic voice is beyond comparison. Her high-stakes stories are layered with utter unpredictability. I cannot recommend this Southern to the core collection of short stories emphatically enough. Each of the five stories in Sharp as a Serpent’s Tooth is the perfect combination of riveting story and character as place.

Mandy Haynes has spent hours on barstools, at backstage venues, and riding in vans listening to some of the best songwriters and storytellers in Nashville, Tennessee. She now lives in Fernandina Beach, Florida with her three dogs, one turtle, and a grateful liver. Her first collection, Walking the Wrong Way Home was a finalist for the Tartt Fiction Award, and selected as a bonus pick for The Pulpwood Queens’ 2020 Reading List.

About me – Mandy Haynes, author of literary fiction with a southern drawl

Mandy Haynes’s Blog http://www.the runawaywriter.com

Book Review: The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington

The Fortunate Ones is a fathoms-deep exploration of love, loyalty, and the ties that bind, written masterfully from all angles. It’s a laser-sharp look at the underbelly of power and privilege’s repercussions as told through the power of story.”

A gorgeous, deep probing treatise on the myriad manifestations of love, envy, privilege, and longing, The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington begins by holding a mirror to coming of age concerns in light of two young men from disparate backgrounds who overlap in a setting where all that glitters isn’t gold.

Full review here! a book review by Claire Fullerton: The Fortunate Ones (nyjournalofbooks.com)

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Ed Tarkington’s debut novel Only Love Can Break Your Heart was an ABA Indies Introduce selection, an Indie Next pick, a Book of the Month Club Main Selection, and a Southern Independent Booksellers Association bestseller. A regular contributor to Chapter16.org, his articles, essays, and stories have appeared in a variety of publications including the Nashville Scene, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Knoxville News-Sentinel, and Lit Hub. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Praise for The Fortunate Ones

“Ed Tarkington’s wonderful second novel, The Fortunate Ones, feels like a fresh and remarkably sure-footed take on The Great Gatsby, examining the complex costs of attempting to transcend or exchange your given class for a more gilded one…As a novelist, he is the real deal. I can’t wait to see this story reach a wide audience, and to see what he does next. ”

— Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin

“To the great literature of anointment, of the young person plucked from obscurity and given a place at the glittering table, we can now add Ed Tarkington’s lovely novel of a young man mystified by his good fortune until the reasons behind it are revealed and the cost is extracted.  A beautiful read.“

— Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier

“Ed Tarkington perfectly captures the heady, conflicted emotions that come with proximity to privilege — both the irresistible longing and the heartbreaking disillusionment. I’m recommending The Fortunate Ones to every book club I know.”

— Mary Laura Philpott, author of I Miss You When I Blink

https://linktr.ee/cffullerton

Nick by Michael Farris Smith

Happy Release day to author Michael Farris Smith! I enjoyed Nick immensely!

“The story of Nick is the story of one lost soul on automatic pilot written in four compelling parts that dovetail to weave a psychic template of a WWI survivor. Its impact is profound, its resonance subterranean.”

It will take hours to wipe the awestruck look off your face after reading the last line of the anxiously anticipated Nick by Michael Farris Smith, a writer with a wildly enthusiastic fan base that fancies itself insiders to Farris Smith’s gritty esotericism. You’re cool if you follow this Oxford, Mississippi author. You are in-crowd if you’re hip to this writer who seemed to inherit the tool kit of the great Southern writers before him. Referred to as MFS by those who take his work personally because his stories do the talking for a certain strata of a particular region, in some ways Farris Smith’s clear, direct, and economic voice is an acquired taste even as his career prospers. But the publication of Nick will change all that, and wider readership will understand the attraction of this fearless writer who transcends literary limits and boundaries and plays by his own rules.

Full Review in the New York Journal of Books: a book review by Claire Fullerton: Nick (nyjournalofbooks.com)

Michael Farris Smith

Michael Farris Smith

Michael Farris Smith is the author of Blackwood, The Fighter, Desperation Road, Rivers, and The Hands of Strangers. His novels have appeared on Best of the Year lists with Esquire, Southern Living, Book Riot, and numerous others, and have been named Indie Next List, Barnes & Noble Discover, and Amazon Best of the Month selections. He has been a finalist for the Southern Book Prize, the Gold Dagger Award in the UK, and the Grand Prix des Lectrices in France. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife and daughters.

The Author Reads from Nick! Go to YouTube: Michael Farris Smith: Nick


AUTHOR INTERVIEWS

How ‘Gatsby’ Went From A Moldering Flop To A Great American Novel

On how timely Gatsby feels today

When I sat down to give it a revision last year, the thing that really struck me and surprised me about it was how timely the novel felt. … I mean, it’s a country that was coming off World War I. It was a country in a great state of transition — which is what we are fully immersed in right now, the greedy and the rich getting richer. … [There are] characters in the novel who are coming off the war, who are very disillusioned with their own country. And it’s a country coming off a pandemic. I mean, I was just blown away like how strangely timely the novel feels now compared to, you know, 100 years ago. And if this novel would have been published in 2015, that would have all been lost. But here we are now.

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https://linktr.ee/cffullerton

Meet Author Johnnie Bernhard!

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A former teacher and journalist, Johnnie Bernhard’s passion is reading and writing. Her work(s) have appeared in national and international publications, including: University of Michigan Graduate Studies Publications, Southern Literary Review, Houston Style Magazine, The Mississippi Press, the international Word Among Us, and the Cowbird-NPR production on small town America. Her entry, “The Last Mayberry,” received over 7,500 views, nationally and internationally.

Her first novel, A Good Girl, is a 2017 finalist in the national Kindle Book Awards, a Pen/Bingham nominee, and shortlisted for the 2015 Wisdom-Faulkner international Writing Competition. It was chosen for panel discussion at both the 2017 Louisiana and Mississippi Book Festivals.

In 2018, A Good Girl was nominated by the Institute of Mississippi Arts and Letters for Fiction of the Year and accepted into the Texas Center for the Book permanent collection.

Her second novel, How We Came to Be, was released in 2018. It is a finalist in the 2017 Wisdom-Faulkner international Writing Competition. Chosen for panel discussion by the 2018 Louisiana Book Festival and the Mississippi Book Festival, it has received stellar reviews, including being named a “Must Read” by Southern Writers Magazine and listed as a 2018 Summer Reading List choice by Deep South Magazine. It was awarded the Summerall Book Prize by Lamar University in 2019.

Johnnie’s third novel, Sister of the Undertow was named a book of the month by the international book club, The Pulpwood Queens. It was a featured novel for panel discussion at the 2020 AWP and chosen as Best of the University Presses, 100 Books by Literary Hub and the Association of University Presses.

Johnnie was selected to be a speaker for the TEDWomen 2020: Fearless series.

Johnnie’s Third Novel, Sisters of the Undertow is making waves in the literary world,

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Sisters Kim and Kathy Hodges are born sixteen months apart in a middle-class existence parented by Linda and David Hodges of Houston, Texas. The happy couple welcomes their “lucky daughter” Kim, who is physically and mentally advanced. Following several miscarriages, Linda delivers “unlucky” Kathy at twenty-nine weeks, ensuring a life of cognitive and physical disabilities. Kathy enters public school as a special education student, while Kim is recognized as gifted.

Both sisters face life and death decisions as Houston is caught in the rip current of Hurricane Harvey. Kim learns the capricious nature of luck, while Kathy continues to make her own luck, surviving Hurricane Harvey, as she has survived all undertows with the ethereal courage of the resolute.

Sisters of the Undertow examines the connotations of lucky and unlucky, the complexities of sibling rivalry, and the hand fate delivers without reason. 

Image may contain: ocean and water, text that says 'Available on Audible, iTunes & Amazon Johnnie Bemhand "One sister beautiful, brilliant, and fearful of love. The other ordinary appear ance, learning disabled, and open- hearted. Itwill take Texas-sized hurricane move the parometer this relationship. well- paced, urgently narrated tory about the powerful under- tow sibling uck and love -MINROSE GWIN, author of The Accidentals Sisters of ANOVEL the yudertow'

Fans of audiobooks! Johnnie Bernhard’s latest novel is out today for your listening pleasure. Narrated by Emmy Award winning book narrator, Theresa Bakken, Sisters of the Undertow will appeal to those who love stories about sisters, families, and the human struggle to fit in. Theresa’s voice is smooth and carries you right into the story. Come download your copy. A 2020 Pulpwood Queens Book Club selection and published by Texas Review Press.

Image may contain: 2 people, including Johnnie Bernhard, people sitting, table and indoor

Like Ted Talks? Listen to Johnnie Bernhard here!

The Human Story | Johnnie Bernhard | TEDxLenoxVillageWomen

(1) The Human Story | Johnnie Bernhard | TEDxLenoxVillageWomen – YouTube

Image may contain: Johnnie Bernhard, text that says 'TEDxLenoxVillageWomen 11.21.2020 Johnnie Bernhard The Human Story'

SISTERS OF THE UNDERTOW has been chosen for the Texas Center for the Book Collection, State Library Austin.

Below: Ginger Smith, Johnnie Bernhard, Yours Truly, Kim Moon at The 2020 Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, Texas.

Image may contain: Ginger Smith, Johnnie Bernhard, Claire Fullerton and Kim Kunkel Moon, people smiling

Johnnie’s 2nd, world-class novel: How We Came to Be

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Here’s my book review of How We Came to Be:

How We Came to Be is a triumph of order from chaos as told in the most accessible first-person voice I’ve had the good fortune to come across in ages. I was under narrator Karen Anders’ spell from the first because author Johnnie Bernhard came out swinging by gifting the reader with this engaging novel’s premise by the third page. Karen doesn’t look good on paper. She is a fifty-year-old, high school English teacher living in Houston; a divorced, single mother facing empty-nest syndrome, well aware of her dependency on alcohol, but nowhere near ready to quit. Why should she? Karen’s life is a mess. One would think this is a recipe for a down on its heels story, but the reader is captivated by Karen’s tell-it-as-it-is persona and—dare I say it, identifies when Karen summarizes her circumstances by confessing, “I’m hating every moment, but pretending I’m having the time of my life.” When I got to this line, I knew I was hooked.
We all have that sardonic friend who manages to smile through the egg on her face. This is Karen in a nutshell, and she keeps on keeping on, trying for the upper hand, while her adopted daughter, Tiffany’s first three months away at college become a study in bad choices, of which Karen has no say beyond putting out the fires. Karen’s dilemma is a common one and raises the question of how to be an effective single parent without chasing her daughter away.
In the meantime, back at the empty nest, Karen knows she must forge a life beyond the rat-wheel of predictable sameness centered on her Houston high school’s schedule. In an uncanny act of timing, Karen’s world is widened when she is befriended by WW11 Hungarian refugee, Leona Supak from across the street, and an unlikely alliance is formed that challenges Karen to grow. Having been single for decades and barely hanging on, it probably isn’t the best time for a man to come into Karen’s life, yet when Matt Broussard pursues the surprised Karen in an Austin bar, she thinks, maybe?
How We Came to Be is a brass-tacks, contemporary story without a moment of campy pretention. The events are cause and effect, but the story is what goes on in the likable Karen’s head. She is not so much a victim of circumstances as she is a neophyte at growing into her own. How We Came to Be is the story of a woman drowning in deep waters, who has the sense to learn how to swim.
I applaud author Johnnie Bernhard for her wizardry in crafting this perfectly paced story in a voice so unique and compelling. This is a book to read and return to. It is perfect for book clubs because there is so much in it to discuss!

Image may contain: Johnnie Bernhard and Minrose Gwin, people smiling

And Johnnie’s first novel, A Good Girl:

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I have found Johnnie Bernhard’s book to touch a powerful chord in my heart.  Masterfully written with deep insightinto the journey of family and forgiveness, I’m a better person for having read this book. – Cynthia Garrett , The London Sessions & The Mini Sessions (airing regularly on TBN Network), Author ofThe Prodigal Daughter
 

One of 2017’s best will surely be A Good Girl by Johnnie Bernhard, who as much as any writer since Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy, offers a breathtaking tour of the human heart in conflict with itself ,desperately searching for grace and redemption in the face of unremitting loss. Bernhard’s sentences are filled with the stuff of what blues and country music singers refer to as “soul” and “high lonesome.” -Jim Fraiser, The Sun Herald, March 12, 2017

A Good Girl is a raw, real, and relatable gift to the soul onevery level. Ms. Bernhard’s writing is so descriptive, reading this book istruly a visceral experience. One cannot help but reflect on their own family legacy and life journey. Prepare to be riveted by this heartbreaking, yet healing story about family, self-discovery and learning how to love. -Eva Steortz, SVP, Brand Development, Twentieth Century Fox



Book Description of A Good Girl:

A Bible’s family tree and an embroidered handkerchief hold the key to understanding the past as six generation Texan, Gracey Reiter prepares to say goodbye to her dying father, the last surviving member of the Walsh-Mueller family. The present holds the answer, and the last opportunity for Gracey to understand her father’s anger, her mother’s guilt, and her siblings’ version of the truth.

The Walsh-Mueller family begins in Texas when Patricia Walsh leaves the famine of nineteenth century Ireland, losing her parents and siblings along the way.  She finds a home, love, and security with Emil Mueller in a German settlement near Indianola on the Texas Gulf Coast.  They begin their lives on a small cotton farm, raising six sons. From the coastal plains of Texas, five generations survive hurricanes, wars, The Great Depression, and life, itself.  

An all-encompassing novel that penetrates the core being of all who read it, A Good Girl pulls back the skin to reveal the raw actualities of life, love, and relationships.  It is the ageless story of family.

One of the highlights of 2020 for many writers was watching this!

For more about Johnnie Bernhard, please visit the author’s web site at http://www.johnniebernhardauthor.com

All of Johnnie’s books are available wherever books are sold!

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