Book Review: Darkness by Bharati Mukherjee

As it appears in the New York Journal of Books

The 12, starkly realistic and fully realized short stories in Bharati Mukherjee’s Darkness incrementally tell of Indian immigrants reconciling an opportunity to make a fresh, upwardly mobile start with the hard knocks of being a stranger in a strange land. The characters’ inherent faith, cultural, and social mores are weighed against new frontiers in their search for footing. Their struggles concern what to maintain and what to shed in the face of family loyalty, racism, and ingrained tradition. In the interest of a bright future, the characters divest themselves of religious doctrine and caste systems that don’t migrate. They persevere in the search for identity as they chisel their way in a land of promise. In braving to push boundaries, they are made aware of their limits.  

In this updated collection of classic short stories, the universally lauded Bharati Mukherjee writes in her 1992 author introduction, “I have joined imaginative forces with an anonymous, driven underclass of semi-assimilated Indians with sentimental attachments to a distant homeland but no real desire for permanent return.”

The characters in Darkness are of all ages and represent the immigrant experience from multiple points of view. Some are in arranged marriages, some are single, and some are divorced. The short stories portray characters in different settings. They differ in gender, background, faith, and occupation. Each impactful story is predicated on what it means to be a fish out of water.

In “The Imaginary Assassin,” a first-generation American tells of her family lore that

led from a dusty, Ludhiana village to Yuba City California. “The plan had been for grandfather to slip into the illegal alien’s underground at the end of the visit, make a fortune, then bring in the rest of his family.” The narrator confesses that as an adolescent, “The shabby diligence of our immigrant lives in Yuba City shamed the romantic in me,” but one night, her grandfather sets her imagination ablaze by recounting a fantastic tale—in a mixture of Punjabi and English—of his involvement in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

A memory of the divided nation between Hindus and Muslims sets the stage for “The Lady From Lucknow.” Nafeesa Hafeez, the Indian narrator now living in Atlanta, compares her ill-fated, extramarital affair with an America to a long ago scandal in Lucknow, which she can’t help but use as a frame of reference when her affair is exposed. Hafeez concludes, “I have lived a life perched on the edge of ripeness and decay. The traveler feels at home everywhere because she is never at home anywhere.”  

Immigrating to Canada has its complex challenges. In “The World According to Hsu,” it is said of half Indian and half Czechoslovakian freelance journalist, Ratna Clayton, “In Montreal she was merely English, a grim joke on generations of British segregationists . . . In Toronto, she was not Canadian, not even Indian. She was something called, after the imported idiom of London, a Paki. And for Paki’s, Toronto was hell.” On holiday with her Canadian husband, on an island off the coast of Africa, in the middle of a revolution, Ratna navigates the locals who try to place her nationality. Mukherjee writes in laser-sharp language devoid of emotion when Ratna, in a restaurant full of fellow travelers, pours herself a glass of wine, “feeling for the moment at home in that collection of Indians and Europeans babbling in English and remembered dialects. No matter where she lived, she would never feel so at home again.”   

That this powerful collection of timeless short stories is now back in print with Godine Nonpareil imprint is a gift to benefit Mukherjee devotees and new readers alike. Such literary luminaries as Amy Tan, Robert Olen Butler, and Joyce Carol Oates have written glowing endorsements of Indian American Canadian Bharati Mukherjee’s body of work, and this collection exemplifies the reasonMukherjee lays bare the method behind her magic, when she writes fitting words for this collection in Darkness’s introduction: “For a writer, energy is aggression: urgency colliding with confidence. Suddenly, everything is possible. Excluded worlds are opened, secretive characters reveal themselves. The writing-self is somehow united with the universe.”

For readers, writers, immigrants, patriots, and expatriates the world over, Darkness by Bharati Mukherjee is a study in excellence of a short story’s highest achievement.

Bharati Mukherjee was an Indian American-Canadian writer and professor emerita in the department of English at the University of California, Berkeley. She was the author of a number of novels and short story collections, as well as works of nonfiction.

The Parting Glass by Lisa J. Parker: Book Review

The five verses of the Scottish traditional folk song, The Parting Glass, are appropriately spaced throughout Lisa J. Parker’s gem of a book by the same title. A consistently voiced assemblage of poetic prose crafted from the vantage point of a transplanted Southerner in appreciation of her Appalachian roots, the introspective vignettes are widely universal and deeply personal, tinged with nuanced nostalgia for the ways and means of the land that raised her.

The 48 poems are poignant vignettes written from the vantage points of both near and far concerning the rural Southern experience. In the 18-lined, Ars Poetica: Northern Virginia, it is man against nature when a goose is struck dead on Route 66,“it’s brown feathers cockeyed on one wing, turned toward traffic as if waving.”

The concept of “downhome” is addressed with the ambiguity of regional pride and the knowledge of being culturally misunderstood. From You Can’t Leave It When You Go, “My mother’s practiced tongue never gave away the hollers … she learned ridicule quickly, tucked accent and dialect quietly behind teeth and tongue, made herself bookish.” In addressing the idea of downhome, Parker says, “Downhome was the constant background song we could hum but never bring to full voiced or lyric… all the meaning of the words broken and blessed and kin.” In The Preacher’s Daughter Studies Her Reflection, Parker depicts the exploration of a downhome, taboo subject. A thirteen-year-old girl stands before a full-length mirror and lifts her skirt to see “the place her mother covers with a washrag when she bathes her.”

A series of nine poems beginning with the title Hillbilly Transplant are set in New York City and illustrate the adage that you can take the girl out of the South but can’t take the South out of the girl. From the poem, Hillbilly Transplant: Working at the Metropolitan Opera, “No amount of staring out the floor to ceiling windows at the grand fountain or City Ballet in Lincoln Square can disenthrone those faces of voices, singing mountain ballads, hymns, and Stanley Brothers standards, sweaty hands clasped, voices perfectly imperfect, soul-savingly beautiful, my hearts familiar redemption.” In the poem’s final note, a declaration is made, “I know as sure as I’ve known anything here that I will leave this city and its grandeur, return South, settle in a tree-laden space with mountains around me.”

The disparity between past and present is observed in the poem, Hillbilly Transplant: In 72nd Street Subway Tunnel a Meditation on Home. It begins with the memory of a drive through rural Virginia that winds through “605 to rutted cattle guard spots where names meet rural routes, where horse farms give way to small plots of corn,” and ends with open eyes that, “Finds yourself still city-gone,” among “wool coats, shoulder satchels, unstoppable current of the mass.”
Other Poems dedicated to life in New York City concern the unsettling aftermath of 9-11. In Hillbilly Transplant: Bethesda Fountain, Central Park, the deathly silence three hours after the Twin Towers fell is depicted, when “no mimes play the sidewalk’s edge like tightrope… no sound but the elm leaves twisting against each other.” In Hillbilly Transplant: Upper West Side, October 10, 2001, “A woman carries a fresh baguette from the Hot N’ Crusty on 71st and Broadway, flinches slightly at the sound of a jet going over. She does not look up.”

A series of poems explore the presence of grief from different angles. In The Passing of Grief, memory takes hold visually with, “Your boots in the corner of the closet slump against hardwood where you left them by the door.” In What Becomes of Song, grief has a sound, “I’ve listened hard these months, sometimes for your off-key song, sometimes the snap of twigs behind me on our path beside the pond, so sure of it I extend my hand behind me, expecting.”

Lisa J. Parker’s second book of poetry reads like a personal diary written in controlled, soaring language that leaves an impact for all its emotional clear-sightedness. The Parting Glass is beautifully rendered with an overall mood of light upon life’s precious moments, crafted in a way accessible to all.

By Claire Fullerton

Lisa J. Parker is a native Virginian raised in the Shenandoah Valley in a large extended Appalachian family. She comes from loggers, miners, and musicians, and grew up surrounded by the music and stories of those Buchanan County hills her family called home for generations.

Parker is a poet, musician, and photographer. Her first book, This Gone Place, reissued in 2022, won the 2010 ASA Weatherford Award and her work is widely published in literary journals and anthologies. Her second poetry collection, The Parting Glass, won the 2021 Arthur Smith Poetry Prize and was published in November of 2022. Her photography has been on exhibit in NYC and published in several arts journals and anthologies. She has worked in the Department of Defense for nearly twenty years, was a first responder for fifteen, and continues to work as a volunteer disaster relief responder with Team Rubicon. 

Join Me in a Virtual Class to talk about Your Book Launch!

Having written 4 novels and one novella, I’ve devised a strategy in preparation for each book launch, and I’ll be a teaching an online class about it, for The Catholic Literary Arts on September 27th at 7 PM, Central Standard Time.

I’ll be talking about the steps to take in creating a solid foundation months before the release date of your book, and where to establish an online presence with strong connections that will support your efforts at book promotion, once your book is out in the world.

You’ve, no doubt, written a best seller; now it’s time for you to get ready to introduce your book to the world.

Because preparation for a book launch can be daunting, I will share the tried and true steps that can make it fun. I’ll be available for your questions in a question and answer forum at the end of the class, and I hope you join me!

You can register now for the class at http://www.catholicliteraryarts.org.

Find me here:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7388895.Claire_Fullerton

https://www.instagram.com/cffullerton/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/claire-fullerton-68033321/

https://www.clairefullerton.com/

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – #Life – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! ‘Home’ by Claire Fullerton

Endless Gratitude to Sally Cronin of Smorgasbord for this personal essay prompt!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

I am sure like me, there have been times when you have wondered what difference might have been made to your life, if your younger self had been gifted with the experience and knowledge you have accumulated over the years.

I invited several friends from the writing community to share their thoughts on this subject which I am sure you will enjoy as much as I did.

Today author Claire Fullerton shares her memories of the home that her mother grew up in and returned to with her own family when Claire was ten years old.

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! ‘Home’ by Claire Fullerton

79 Morningside Park

The house in which I grew up anchors me in the larger world as a frame of reference, although while I was growing up, this was an unrecognized fact. Youth takes given things for granted. I had no…

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Join Us This Monday, 2nd May!

Tina Hogan Grant Says:

Join me every other Monday at 5:00 PM PST (8:00 PM EST) for a Cuppa & A Natter (Live Chat) When I sit down and talk with fellow authors.

Monday, May, 2nd, author Claire Fullerton, will be joining me

There will be giveaways. Watch us live to be entered.

Claire will be giving away an author signed copy of her novels, Little Tea, and Mourning Dove.

You can watch the live chat on my Author Page –

https://www.facebook.com/Tina.Hogan.Grant.Author

Or my Facebook Group – Read More Books –

https://www.facebook.com/groups/tinahogangrant

Or on my YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfx3dqE8Uo9jFMycaa2JQjQ

Claire’s Bio

Claire Fullerton is the multiple award-winning author of 4 traditionally published novels and one novella, which appears in the book, A Southern Season: Scenes from a Front Porch Swing. Her work has appeared in 4 anthologies and numerous magazines, including Celtic Life International and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. She hails from Memphis, Tennessee, and now lives in Malibu, California with her husband, 3 German shepherds, and one black cat. She has recently completed her 5th manuscript and is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Literary Agency.

Tina Hogan Grant:


Award-winning author Tina Hogan Grant was born in England and moved to the States in 1979. After moving to California, she became a commercial fisherwoman and spent ten years fishing off the southern coast of California with her husband Gordon. After retiring from fishing, they moved to a small mountain community in CA and spent the next ten years building their dream home, doing most of the work themselves. Grant enjoys writing suspense romances, stories with strong female characters who know what they want and aren’t afraid to chase their dreams. Favorite quote: “There’s no such word as can’t ” When Grant is not lost in her world of writing she enjoys riding ATVs, hiking and discovering new trails, and going on long road trips. Grant’s book Better Endings won a gold medal award for Best Fiction Adventure 2020 And The Reunions won a Gold medal award for Best Fiction Adventure 2021 Grant has had apperances on FOX NEWS Bakersfield, Bakersfield NOW NEWS, HOMETOWN -KVPA Radio Santa Clarita, Voyage LA Magazine and The Mountain Enterpise Newspaper. Keep in the loop with Tina and receive Davin The Sabela Series Prequel for FREE by signing up for her newsltter https://www.tinahogangrant.com/newslettersignup.

We hope to see you this Monday at 5pm Pacific Standard Time of Tina’s Facebook Page!

https://www.facebook.com/Tina.Hogan.Grant.Author

Or my Facebook Group – Read More Books –

https://www.facebook.com/groups/tinahogangrant

Oliver: A Novella by Mandy Haynes

Description:

Even though eleven-year old Olivia is raised in a southern Baptist church she likes to cover all her bases when asking for a favor. Unlike her brother Oliver, she struggles with keeping her temper and staying out of trouble. But Oliver is special in more ways than one, and in the summer of ’72 he shows Olivia that there’s magic all around us. It’s up to us to see it.

On author, Mandy Haynes:

Author Mandy Haynes has a wide reputation for being one of the most authentic voices of modern-day America’s Deep South. Set in the complex rural South, her stories are alive with spot-on vernacular, her character’s are self-assured and quirky, and the predicaments they find themselves in are quintessentially Southern experiences. Reading Mandy Haynes work is an education in all that goes into the cultural hotbed of the romantic South. Her work takes you down long country roads where anything can and does happen.

My Endorsement of the delightful novella, Oliver !

“A small-town story of childhood innocence, sibling admiration, blind optimism, and plenty of shenanigans, author Mandy Haynes has penned an incomparable narrator in Sissy, who tells a multifaceted story highlighting the altruistic plans of her remarkable brother, Oliver. The Southern jargon in this charming novella is character defining, the precocious mood insightful. Oliver is about bringing out the goodness in people, even if it takes a bit of magic.”

Claire Fullerton, Author.

Other Praise for Oliver:

“Mandy Haynes takes me on a memory journey to the last great childhood of the South, a time when bicycles were a magic carpet that could take a child wherever she wanted to go. The joy of this novella is how easily I slip between the pages and live the adventures with Oliver and Olivia. Sibling love. Kindness. Good intentions gone awry and good deeds fraught with danger. This story echos with my past, and the past of many now homeless Southerners. Once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it down.”

Carolyn Haines, USA Today bestseller, is the author of over 80 books in multiple genres

“Mandy Haynes effortlessly and brilliantly writes children, a feat at which many writers struggle and fail. In Oliver, her uniquely, lyrical voice sings the reader smack dab into this heartwarming story inhabited by Oliver and Olivia, a brother and sister whose special bond is symbiotically balanced upon the other’s abilities and perspectives. I dare you to not fall immediately in love with these characters, and fret over them as I did as they make their journey through this poignant summer from long ago.”

Robert Gwaltney, author of The Cicada Tree

Author Mandy Haynes

Mandy Haynes is also the Editor of Reading Nation Magazine: (https://mandyhaynes.com/reading-nation-magazine/,) which highlights established and up-and-coming authors and their work.

Mandy Haynes writes of her career:

I decided to self-publish mainly because I am too impatient to do all the things you need to do to sell yourself to an agent, and three different indie publishers I’d corresponded with weren’t the right fit. Then it hit me – I could publish them myself. I’d already spent the money on editors. I’d had the book critiqued by one of my heroes, Suzanne Hudson, and I had a group of readers asking, “When can I get your book?” So, I started a publishing company, titled, Three Dogs Write Press and got busy. It’s been a great learning experience.

I have two collections of short stories published now, one novel in the first draft stages, and a second novel in its rough draft stage.  

I do write about some heavy subjects. But to me, those stories are important. I hope that I give the reader a satisfying ending and if they’ve struggled with some of the issues my characters face, I hope I give them closure. At least a feeling of hope and the knowledge that they aren’t alone.

Mandy Haynes Website: https://mandyhaynes.com/my-books/

Oliver is available online and at http://www.threedogswritepress.

The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare by Kimberly Brock

As my review appears in The New York Journal of Books:

The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare is historical fiction based on a true story with legendary status having to do with a mystery beginning in 1585 concerning the Lost Colony of Roanoke, whose citizens vanished without a trace during the perilous times of America’s early settlement. It’s a multigenerational story haunting Alice Merely Young, a WWII widow in her late thirties, and mother to 13-year-old daughter, Pennilyn.

It is the spring of 1945 when Alice’s small-business owning father dies in Helen, Georgia, and Alice returns to the deep roots she tried to outrun on her family’s neglected, vast acreage farm, six miles from Savannah. On riverside grounds sits a dilapidated mansion named Evertell, which Alice inherited. The house has suffered since she’s last seen it, and in Alice’s absence the secrets of her lineage once whispered by forebears, from one generation of women to the next are now silent.

Across the river by the family graveyard, in the small chapel on Bell Island, a treasured commonplace book is housed, which the mother of Alice’s ancestor, Eleanor Dare, began in England, and which Eleanor safeguarded as a Roanoke colonist with an eye

toward passing down to future generations. In the commonplace book, Eleanor Dare scratched a secret: “Every woman in Eleanor’s mother’s line waited for the day when her heart would be ready and she would have a vision, her Evertell, a sign she’d come of age and with it the gift of guidance from her forebears. . . . This is what passed from mother to daughter—a book of women’s wisdom and mysteries.”

 It is now 15 generations down Eleanor Dare’s line, and Alice knows the commonplace book rightly belongs in the hands of her daughter, yet the bravery required to confess her role in one tragic night holds Alice back as she summons the memory of the last time she saw her troubled mother. Alice thinks, “My mother taught me that a story matters, not because it is true, but because it’s been told.”

Alice carries the burden of guilt over a failed familial rite of passage involving her mother and the legacy of a stone now lying sacrosanct deep in Evertell’s woods, thought to be inscribed by Eleanor Dare’s own hand. The memory of that night haunts Alice, who stands before the Evertell woods and thinks, “Until now, I’d tried to forget what happened. I’d never planned to go back to that place. But that was before I had a daughter of my own. Now she looks at me with the question all daughters are bound to ask their mothers: Who are you?”  

Sonder Holloway has kept Evertell’s grounds for 23 years, ever since Alice and her father fled to the town of Helen after the death of Alice’s mother. Taciturn, reliable, and four years Alice’s elder, he’s a devoted man who has Alice’s best interest at heart, but the unreconciled shame Alice carries makes the reunion of the childhood friends awkward, and when Alice reports her intention of selling Evertell to finance Penn’s education, Sonder is sensitive to Alice’s past and patient.

He, and a handful of other wonderfully drawn local characters know well of Evertell’s secrets, for the tightly woven threads of Evertell’s storied fabric include many in the nearby village. All know the legend of the Dare stone connecting Alice’s family with a dark history, and though it’s of historical significance, Alice suspects that stone is the source of a family curse.

The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare is an intriguing, dreamy story about the impact of one unhealed woman who has yet to reconcile her past in such a way that lends itself to transparency with her young daughter, who, by birthright, wants to know and deserves to know about her own lineage. Author Kimberly Brock delicately balances mystery, family lore, and honoring one’s forebears in sonorous language throughout a sweeping story with three points of view, two timeframes, and remarkably steady pacing. Weaving myth and legend with historical fact pertaining to an age-old American mystery, The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare is a spellbinding, beautiful story written by a graceful hand with just the right amount of mysticism.  

Claire Fullerton’s most recent novels are Little Tea and multiple award winner, Mourning Dove. Honors include the Independent Book Publishers Book Award Silver Medal for Regional Fiction, the Reader’s Favorite for Southern Fiction Bronze Medal and various other literary awards.

Buy on Amazon

Kimberly Brock is the award-winning author of The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare and The River Witch.

Her debut was an Amazon bestseller featured by both national and international book clubs and included in multiple reading lists. Praised by RT Reviews and Huffington Post as a “solemn journey of redemption, enlightenment and love,” and evocative of “the stories of Flannery O’Connor and Carson McCullers,” Kimberly’s debut novel was honored with the prestigious Georgia Author of the Year Award in 2013, by the Georgia Writer’s Association.

A former actor and special needs educator, Kimberly received her bachelor’s degree from the University of West Georgia in 1996. In 2014, Kimberly founded Tinderbox Writer’s Workshop, a transformative creative experience for women in the arts. Kimberly has served as a guest lecturer for many regional and national groups, including The Women’s Fiction Writer’s annual conference and The Pat Conroy Literary Center. She lives near Atlanta with her husband and three children.

The Cicada Tree by Robert Gwaltney

Official Book Cover for The Cicada Tree by Robert Gwaltney


As my review of this extraordinary book appears in the New York Journal of Books: https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/cicada-tree.

The coming-of-age concerns in Robert Gwaltney’s riveting The Cicada Tree are set against a surreal Southern backdrop so plausibly staged as to seem par for the course throughout the first-person narrative of Analeise Newell, who unfurls a fantastic story in hindsight about the perils of obsession. Analeise ominously begins, “It was the cicadas’ singing I remember best—their courting song. It was frenetic beckoning for the affection of another that stirred the heat to reckless speeds that summer, the summer I turned eleven.” 

It is 1956 Providence, Georgia, and young Analeise lives in a humble house with her mother, Grace, who lives apart from Analiese’s hard-drinking, shiftless father. Beneath their roof cohabitates Miss Wessie and her eleven-year-old granddaughter, Etta Mae. The foursome is a harmonious, biracial family, the girls in school as Miss Wessie keeps house, while Grace works multiple jobs, including part-time domestic work for the Mayfields—the wealthiest family in town who live in an opulent mansion and maintain a mystique of legendary status.

The four main characters are each blessed with an extraordinary gift of otherworldly proportion: Etta Mae sings opera in the voice of an angel; Miss Wessie bears clear-sighted wisdom; and Grace, a talented seamstress, divines the future in her stitches and receives prescient hunches each time the scar she received from a snakebite throbs.

Analeise is a prodigy on the piano to the point where she can see and taste music, and explains, “Though Mama was brilliant with a needle and thread, it was her ability to read the future in her own sewing that was the true gift, an ability as deep down a part of her as the music inside me.” Analise describes Etta Mae’s singing by recounting its initial impact, “It seemed I was the only one who saw it. The only one to see Etta Mae’s voice turn into a real, seeable thing—puffs of breath blown in the winter’s cold… and I could taste it. Love and want. More of a texture than a flavor, cotton candy melting on my tongue, dissolving to a sugary grit.”  

The high drama of The Cicada Tree centers on Analeise’s experience with the three members of the enigmatic Mayfield family who share a dark history. When Analeise comes into contact with Marlissa Mayfield at school, she, as well as all others in Malissa’s orbit, is beguiled by her charisma to the point of obsession.

At home, Miss Wessie tells Analeise to stay away from the Mayfields. “Them Mayfields ain’t for you,” Miss Wessie says, and when Analeise presses her to clarify rumor concerning Marlissa’s brother, Miss Wessie hesitantly confesses he was, “As blond as the rest of them, his eyes greener, a kind of shine that makes you feel a strange kind of way. That makes you want to be close. . . . All of them—Mr. Kingston, Miss Cordelia, and Marlissa. They all got it. An unnatural kind of charm.” Analeise admits, “I knew what it was like to stand in the shine of a Mayfield. So blinding you have to squint.” 

Analeise Newell is a remarkable character, a deep-thinking, uniquely voiced, secret keeping Scout Finch with an exuberant edge you’d follow anywhere. Prone to mischief and grappling with complicated adolescent feelings including a dark, covetous envy, she knows she is pretty, yet in light of the strange goings on around her, she is also self-aware and says of herself, “But what did pretty matter if my inside parts did not match? I imagined my innards, discolored and mushy, a half-eaten watermelon left too long in the sun. I was layers of mean thoughts and murderous prayers. What else might I be capable of if a thing needed doing?”

The Cicada Tree has elements of mystery metaphorically set among a phenomenon of Biblical proportions occurring once every 13 years, and Gwaltney takes the reader into the middle of it when the town is overrun by a swarm of cicadas. Gwaltney leaves nothing unattended in the chaos, when the characters run home for cover. Analeise says, “The four of us moved in close, folding in together, weaving a knot. The song of the male cicada rose, the sound of millions of buckling tymbals. Vibrations passed through the walls with the rise of the racket, agitating the floor, worrying our feet. Our heads jerked and strained in all directions, keeping check on the walls, spying all the dark corners. The light from the dwindling candle distorted our faces, having its way until we were no longer ourselves. All of us left there growing mad from the sound.”

From her self-oriented view based on past actions, Analeise fears her and Etta Mae’s involvement: “The natural world had come undone, the delicate underpinnings unhinged and knocked loose by a song. Etta Mae, she had been the one to do it, to raze the place with hail—to unleash this plague of cicadas. But whose fault was it really? Had I not been the one to strike the blow, to set the plan?”

Blending gothic elements into Southern fiction paired with musical notes of magical realism, Robert Gwaltney’s The Cicada Tree blindsides with creative intelligence, leaping across genre boundaries in elegant prose to weave a wholly symphonic experience with all the hallmarks of an instant cult classic.

Robert Gwaltney

Headshot of Author Robert Gwaltney in a Black Turtleneck Sweater
Meet The Author of The Cicada Tree

A graduate of Florida State University, I presently reside in Atlanta Georgia with my partner. By day, I serve as Vice President of Easter Seals North Georgia, Inc., a non-profit organization strengthening children and their families at the most critical times in their development. Through my non-profit work, I am a champion for early childhood literacy. In all the hours between, I write.

Raised alongside three feral, younger brothers in the rash-inducing, subtropical climate of Cairo Georgia, I am a lifelong resident of the South.  A circumstance, no doubt, leaving an indelible mark upon my voice as a writer. 

Aside from sense of place, my writing is influenced and inspired by the literary work of others.  As a boy, it was with great obsession, I turned the well-worn pages of Charlotte Brontë’s, Jane EyreWuthering Heights? Yes, another source of adoration. And Truman Capote’s debut novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, I admire with equal reverence along with everything ever written by Tennessee Williams. 

Charles Dickens’ Miss Havisham is one of my all-time favorite characters. Many hours I spent playing her, wrapped in an old lace tablecloth borrowed from my mother’s linen closet—my tattered, makeshift wedding dress. Locked away in my boyhood room, I haunted the place, plotting revenge, shooing rats from the wedding cake. “Break their hearts my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy,” I would whisper into the impressionable ear of my lovely Estella.  Break their hearts.

As an adult, my literary palate is diverse, reading everyone from the sublime Michael Cunningham to the gifted Jesmyn Ward to the incomparable Ron Rash. Though my tastes have evolved through the years, one constant remains: the impact of literature and art and music upon my writing. And my unrelenting quest to make and find beauty in this world.    .

No description available.
At Never More Books in Beaufort, South Carolina, March 24, 2022. AND simultaneously Available Live on The Pat Conroy Literary Center’s Facebook Page. Check there for the time!

Smorgasbord Book Review – #Ireland #Music #Romance – Dancing to an Irish Reel by Claire Fullerton

Thank you to the inimitable Sally Cronin!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Having read and enjoyed two more recent books by Claire Fullerton, I am now exploring her earlier books and this week my review is for a delightful book set in Ireland, Dancing to an Irish Reel.

Dancing to an Irish Reel by [Claire Fullerton]About the book

While on sabbatical from her job in the Los Angeles record business, twenty-five-year old Hailey Crossan takes a trip to the west coast of Ireland , where she walks into the Galway Music Center and is offered a job too good to turn down. Friendships are formed quickly with her fellow, Irish employees, and Hailey lives thirteen miles “up the road” in the wind-swept, seaside area of Connemara, a land steeped in traditional music, where Irish is the first language.

When Hailey meets a famous local musician named Liam Hennessey, a confusing relationship begins, which Hailey thinks may be the result of differing cultures, for Liam is married to…

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All About The Pulpwood Queens Book Club! Virtual Weekend begins Online Tomorrow!

This is the extraordinary camaraderie of The Pulpwood Queens Book Club, whose Virtual Weekend starts tomorrow! I’ll tell you about the Free for Readers online conference next on this post, but for now, this morning I spied this Facebook post by fellow Pulpwood Queen author, Ruthie Landis, who has been championing the contributors to the recently released assembly of Works in Progress by featured authors of @thepulpwoodqueen #bookclub. The book is fun reading, as it’s 59 excerpts from various authors in one book! It’s published by and can be procured at https://threedogswritepress.com/ and can also be found on Amazon under the name of editor, Mandy Haynes.

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WORK IN PROGRESS

Have you ever finished a book and wondered, “What made the author think of that?” Or wondered if there was a chapter in the original manuscript that didn’t make it through the final edits? Maybe you’d like to get a sneak peek at what an author is currently working on. Work In Progress includes sixty excerpts from some talented authors’ works in progress in different stages of the writing process, followed up with the story behind the story of the piece, and the story behind the author who wrote it. Where did the idea come from? What were they thinking during the writing process? Why did they delete a chapter, or change a character? Find out the answers to these questions and more inside – 546 pages filled with great stories!

Now, on the Pulpwood Queens Virtual Party!

I hope to #seeyou beginning tomorrow at the Pulpwood Queens #weeklong, #virtualevent where #readers gain free admittance!

2022 International Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Virtual Online Zoomathon

Get Your Package for the 2022 International Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Week Long Online Virtual Book Club!

Readers join FREE!

Contact: Kathy L. Murphy, CEO and Founder of The International Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Club Reading Nation and Girlfriend Weekend

Email: thepulpwoodqueen@gmail.com Website: www.thepulpwoodqueens.com

This weeklong Book club event is not to be missed! It’s a great opportunity to meet multiple authors!