Authors Supporting Authors!

I’m sharing this post about the release of Rebecca Rosenberg’s book, Champagne Widows, from author, Susan Cushman, whose latest book, John and Mary Margaret released last June, and whom I featured here. I love it when authors support authors!

To refresh your memory on Susan Cushman’s book, here is the cover of John and Mary Margaret.

John and Mary Margaret by [Susan Cushman]

And here is Susan’s blog post on today’s release of Rebecca Rosenberg’s, titled, Champagne Widows!

Champagne Widows

August 31, 2021 Susan2 Comments

Veuve Clicquot, Grande Dame of Champagne

Happy pub day to Rebecca Rosenberg! Here’s the blurb I wrote for the book, which I’ve also posted on Amazon and Goodreads:

Rebecca Rosenberg has penned a spectacular saga of the first of the “Champagne widows” of France, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot. With her gift, known as Le Nez (the nose), Barbe-Nicole can “smell the stink of a lie or the perfume of a pure heart. Or the heartbreaking smell of what could have been.” Along with her expertise she possesses courage and vision, overcoming incredible odds again women who dare to step up as entrepreneurs during the time of the Napoleonic Code, which left widows without rights to property—in Barbe-Nicole’s case, her Champagne business. Seamlessly interwoven with historical letters from Napoleon, the book sweeps the reader into the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century world. But it’s her imaginative tale of Veuve Clicquot’s personal life that captured me and wouldn’t let go until the end, leaving me wanting more!

Champagne Widows: First Woman of Champagne, Veuve Clicquot by [Rebecca Rosenberg]

Book Description:

From triple-gold award-winning author, Rebecca Rosenberg: Champagne, France, 1800. Twenty-year-old Barbe-Nicole inherited Le Nez (an uncanny sense of smell) from her great-grandfather, a renowned champagne maker. She is determined to use Le Nez to make great champagne, but the Napoleon Code prohibits women from owning a business. When she learns her childhood sweetheart, François Clicquot, wants to start a winery, she marries him despite his mental illness.

Soon, her husband’s tragic death forces her to become Veuve (Widow) Clicquot and grapple with a domineering partner, the complexities of making champagne, and six Napoleon wars, which cripple her ability to sell champagne. When she falls in love with her sales manager, Louis Bohne, who asks her to marry, she must choose between losing her winery to her husband, as dictated by Napoleon Code, or losing Louis.

In the ultimate showdown, Veuve Clicquot defies Napoleon himself, risking prison and even death.

Praise for Champagne Widows!

“These first known women of Champagne/Sparkling winemaking may not have even realized how strong they were until they had to learn and do it all to survive for themselves and their wineries! Reading Champagne Widows makes it even more of an honor to learn a craft still dominated by men.” ~Penny Gadd-Coster, Executive Director of Winemaking, Rack & Riddle

“For anyone who loves champagne, a must-read novel about Veuve Clicquot.”
~ Judithe Little, best-selling author of The Chanel Sisters

“Award-winning author, Rebecca Rosenberg returns with another Historical Fiction jewel in CHAMPAGNE WIDOWS. Meet the women who succeeded in creating world class champagne in a time men ruled business and society. Lovers of history, romance, and French culture will relish the multi-layered plot and cast of characters including the ultimate French icon, Napoleon Bonaparte.” ~Johnnie Bernhard, award-winning author of Sisters of the Undertow

With crisp writing, Rebecca Rosenberg serves us the sparkling story of Veuve Clicquot, an independent woman of indomitable strength, determined to find her way in a man’s world. Champagne Widows is vintage storytelling. ~Jean M. Roberts, author of The Heron

“Like the best wines, Rosenberg’s Champagne Widows will entice you with its complexity as it balances the story of a widow’s determination to produce the world’s greatest champagne in the face of Napoleon’s path of destruction. If you love France, historical fiction, underdog stories, strong women, or wine, then pop a cork to celebrate this perfect blend of a novel.” ~Mary Helen Sheriff, author of Boop and Eve’s Road Trip

Congratulations to Rebecca Rosenberg, and gratitude to Susan Cushman!

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.”
Image preview
Mary Helen Sheriff on WordPress!
Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys August Book Club Selection!
Image preview

Introducing The Desideratum Podcast!

Legions of authors adore Narrator Theresa Bakken, who produces and hosts The Desideratum Podcast. The ultimate in author-talk happens on Desideratum, and I’m excited to share that I just got booked to record for an appearance on this wonderful Podcast in late August. Watch this space! Desideratum is available now on Anchor, Spotify, Apple, Google and more! Now also carried by Authors on the Air Global Radio Network!

Desideratum is a Latin word meaning things that are desired as essential. Longing for stories to share and wishing for moments with gifted storytellers inspired this podcast. Each episode features a recorded short story or excerpt from an author’s latest book or audiobook, and a conversation with the writer about their craft and what they believe is essential. Tune in to hear an author you love, or to find your next favorite storyteller.

Meet Theresa Bakken, a multi-talented Podcast host and audiobook narrator!

Follow Theresa Bakken here on WordPress! Theresa Bakken NarratorBlog at WordPress.com.

And here’s a sample of Theresa Bakken’s audiobook narration! https://www.amazon.com/The-Storm-Beyond-the-Tides/dp/B08NTXG7VV/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2EMKX6JKFHCO&keywords=the+storm+beyond+the+tides+by+jonathan+cullen&qid=1612714947&sprefix=the+storm+beyond+the+tid%2Caudible%2C211&sr=8-1

You can email Theresa here for inquiries about her work!

Email tbnarrator@gmail.com to get started on your audiobook.

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

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

The Maidens

Image of The Maidens

Book Review as it appears in the New York Journal of books

Author(s): Alex Michaelides Release Date: June 14, 2021 Publisher/Imprint: Celadon Books Reviewed by: Claire Fullerton

The Maidens is an intricately plotted, mystery-thriller for the discerning reader. It’s an atmospheric story set on Cambridge University’s campus merging cliff-hanging twists with artful suspense.”

Mariana Andros is a 36-year-old, grieving widow. She is 14 months past the accident that killed her husband, Sebastian, on a beach in Greece while on holiday. A practicing group therapist, she continues to live in the yellow house she shared with Sebastian on Primrose Hill in Northwest London. “But in many ways, Mariana was still there, still trapped on the beach in Naxos, and she would be forever.”

Having met as Cambridge University students, Mariana and Sebastian had a marriage of opposites. “In contrast to Mariana’s privileged upbringing, Sebastian was brought up with no money.” They met when they were both 19, and “In many ways, Mariana’s and Sebastian’s lives began when they found each other.” Mariana believed their love would go on forever, but “Looking back was there something sacrilegious in that assumption? A kind of hubris?”

Mariana came to England at age 18 to attend St. Christopher’s college in Cambridge. She grew up in Greece, on the outskirts of Athens with her sister Elisa, who died with her husband in a car crash, leaving the married Sebastian and Mariana as surrogate parents to Zoe, who is now a Cambridge student. Mariana fears she has lost touch with Zoe. “Their relationship had been imbalanced ever since Sebastian’s death, and from now on, Mariana was determined to correct that balance.”

When Mariana receives a phone call from Zoe and learns something is dreadfully wrong, she packs a bag and immediately leaves for Cambridge by train, where she meets a student named Fred, who is pursuing his PHD at Cambridge, and quickly pursues Mariana to the point of being a pest.

Mariana gets off the train and approaches the prime setting of The Maidens. “And now, as she grew closer and closer to St. Christopher’s, she found herself walking with increasing trepidation as the familiar streets made it hard to hold back the memories flooding into her mind—ghosts of Sebastian were waiting on every corner.” Mariana has her reasons for soldiering on. “She’d do it for Zoe. Zoe was all she had left.”

In The Maidens, Alex Michaelides excels in writing character as place: “Mariana had been afraid to see it again—the backdrop to her love story, but thankfully, the college’s beauty came to her rescue.” “As Mariana neared the college, her surroundings grew more and more beautiful with each step: there were spires and turrets above her head, and beech trees lining the streets shedding golden leaves that collected in piles along the pavement.”

An unidentified body is found in Cambridge, and Zoe suspects her good friend, Tara, is the victim. Within minutes of Mariana’s arrival to her Alma Mater, Zoe’s suspicions are confirmed.

Although planning to stay in Cambridge only long enough to console Zoe over the loss of her friend, Mariana becomes involved in the search for the murderer, when a chance encounter reunites her with Julian Ashcroft, her Cambridge classmate from 20 years before, now a celebrated forensic psychologist, who keeps Mariana apprised of the murder investigation’s findings.  

Zoe considers herself a college outcast, and Mariana worries about her now that her best friend Tara is dead. As Zoe’s predicament at Cambridge becomes clear to Mariana, she discovers the thorn in Zoe’s side involves an elite group of girls from privileged backgrounds who occupy a high strata of scholastic standing, and at the core of this special clique, known as The Maidens, is one Edward Fosca, a sinister Greek Classics professor come to Cambridge from America.

By all rumors, dubious activity surrounds The Maidens, and Zoe confesses they’re a secret society to which Tara belonged. Zoe further confesses that Tara had come to her in fear of Edward Fosca on the very night she was murdered. Alarmed and intrigued, Mariana can’t resist taking the murder investigation into her own hands.

Against a thematic background of Greek Tragedy serving as a template to two more Cambridge murders, the one thing the victims have in common is membership in The Maidens. When Edward Fosca invites Mariana to his rooms for an intimate dinner, Mariana is reluctant, but also convinced that Fosca is the murderer. In the interest of further investigation, she accepts his invitation and finds disturbing evidence in his rooms to support her convictions. Not knowing who to trust with her findings, Mariana calls Fred and the two put their minds together in unravelling the mystery.

Tangled threads and uncanny alliances are woven throughout this off-kilter story. Interspersed throughout are confessions from a troubled, unknown narrator, on whom the lens of possibility shifts from one character to the next.

The Maidens is an intricately plotted, mystery-thriller for the discerning reader. It’s an atmospheric story set on Cambridge University’s campus merging cliff-hanging twists with artful suspense.    

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.

Little Tea!

I woke up this morning to the surprise of this on Goodreads.

This, I think, is proof of the scales balancing in that Little Tea was released at the beginning of the pandemic, which meant the book tour primarily in the Deep South that I had scheduled was canceled. I had ten events scheduled, back-to-back, in three Southern states including radio, bookstores, and television. The cancelation left me, as well as legions of authors, not only disappointed, but baffled about how to get the word out about our books. I owe endless gratitude to WordPress Bloggers, book clubs, podcasts, libraries, Facebook book pages and book groups. ZOOM and StreamYard have been phenomenal venues.

Below is Landis Wade of the Charlotte Reader’s Podcast.

Southern Culture … Old Friendships … Family Tragedy

One phone call from Renny to come home and “see about” the capricious Ava and Celia Wakefield decides to overlook her distressful past in the name of friendship.

For three reflective days at Renny’s lake house in Heber Springs, Arkansas, the three childhood friends reunite and examine life, love, marriage, and the ties that bind, even though Celia’s personal story has yet to be healed. When the past arrives at the lake house door in the form of her old boyfriend, Celia must revisit the life she’d tried to outrun.

As her idyllic coming of age alongside her best friend, Little Tea, on her family’s ancestral grounds in bucolic Como, Mississippi unfolds, Celia realizes there is no better place to accept her own story than in this circle of friends who have remained beside her throughout the years. Theirs is a friendship that can talk any life sorrow into a comic tragedy, and now that the racial divide in the Deep South has evolved, Celia wonders if friendship can triumph over history.

IAN Badge Second Place 2020.png
Little Tea: Book of the Year by the Independent Authors Network: 2nd Place
readers favorite.jpg
Reader’s Favorite: Gold Medal in Southern Fiction
deepsouth_logo_full2x.jpg
Summer Reading List: Deep South Magazine
TopShelf_Award[3346].png
Top Shelf Magazine Award Winner
Contemporary & Literary  Novel Writing Contest | Chanticleer Book Reviews
First Place in the Somerset Awards
Zoom Meeting with The Pulpwood Queens Book Club of Jackson, Mississippi . Little Tea was the August, 2020 Selection of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club!
And, if you want to hear my Southern accent, here is the video of the Beaufort, South Carolina Chapter of the Pulpwood Queens, who had me as a guest after they read Little Tea! The Pulpwood Queens Host Novelist Claire Fullerton, author of Little Tea – YouTube

Meggie Daly

5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Reviewed in the United States on June 16, 2021 Verified Purchase
Gosh, there were so many wonderful things about this book! I loved the protagonist’s voice, the sassy banter among the girlfriends, tackling hard family, marriage, and race issues. A subtle wisdom fanned out from the pages. Fullerton is an expert in backstory integration! Needless to say I went into mourning for a day or so after I finished the book–as I always do when I have to say goodbye to characters that I have loved!

Little Tea is available at online book outlets and book stores!

Little Tea (bookshop.org)

https://amzn.to/3hemNqD

Author Kathleen Rodgers’ The Flying Cutterbucks Audio Book Releases!

Hear an excerpt from The Flying Cutterbucks Audio Book Here!

Author Kathleen Rodgers

Book Description:

Decades ago, Trudy, Georgia, and Aunt Star formed a code of silence to protect each other from an abusive man who terrorized their family. One act of solidarity long ago lives with them still. With the election of a president who brags about groping women without their consent, old wounds and deep secrets come alive again, forcing hard truths to be told and even harder truths to be left to the dead.

On the outskirts of Pardon, New Mexico, Trudy returns to her mother, Jewel, to navigate an old house filled with haunting mementos of her father who went missing in action over North Vietnam. As she helps her mother sift through the memories and finally lay her father to rest, Trudy will do her own soul searching to say goodbye to the dead, and find her way along with the other women in her family, and through the next election.

Audio Book Press Release:

New Mexico Natives, Kathleen M. Rodgers (nee Doran) and F. Michelle Williams, have collaborated to produce an
audio version of Ms. Rodgers’ fourth novel, The Flying Cutterbucks, set against the backdrop of New Mexico and the
2016-2020 presidential elections.
The two Clovis Wildcats met as young writers on Clovis High School’s newspaper, The Purple Press, in 1975. Their
friendship has remained more than 40 years later even though their individual paths took them away from eastern
New Mexico.
Ms. Rodgers is an award-winning author of four novels. Her accolades include 2021 Pulpwood Queens Book Club
Pick, 2021 Somerset Contemporary Fiction Finalist, 2020 Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) Founder’s
Award, 2020 MWSA Writer of the Year Finalist, and 2019 MWSA Writer of the Year Finalist. She was inducted into
the Clovis High School Hall of Honor in 2017 by the Clovis Municipal School Foundation. In addition to The Flying
Cutterbucks, Ms. Rodgers has authored three other novels: The Final Salute, Johnnie Come Lately, and Seven Wings to
Glory.
The Flying Cutterbucks is set in the fictional eastern New Mexico town of Pardon. Those familiar with Clovis
landmarks and traditions will recognize them throughout the novel. The author also gives a nod to her personal
family history through her references to La Castenada in Las Vegas, NM where her grandmother, Olga Berg Lamb,
worked as a Harvey Girl from 1928-1930. New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Kent describes the story as
“A rousing timely novel of hope and solidarity among women in a family wounded by the tragedy of war and the
trauma of sexual assault.” The Flying Cutterbucks was released in print in June 2020 and is represented by Diane Nine,
President of Nine Speakers, Inc.
Ms. Williams’ began a media career as an announcer at Norman Petty stations KWKA and KTQM in 1974. She
took a detour after graduating from NMSU to work in the legal field including a stint at the NM Court of Appeals
followed by a twenty plus year career with the Health Law Section of the University of New Mexico Office of
University Counsel. Unable to “do retirement well,” Ms. Williams decided to return to her media roots after retiring
from UNM in January 2021. She launched FM Williams Voiceover Talent, LLC. The two friends reconnected after
a Facebook post announcing Williams’ recent audiobook narrations earlier this year and joined forces to produce
the audiobook version of The Flying Cutterbucks which will be released on June 29, 2021 from Skyboat Media.

May be an image of Kathleen M. Rodgers

Th Flying Cutterbucks is available from June 29 through Audible!

https://kathleenmrodgers.com/

Book Introduction: Stones Corner Turmoil by Jane Buckley.

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08TMX13YZ
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Orla Kelly Publishing (January 25, 2021)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ January 25, 2021

Book Description:

Caitlin McLaughlin is just like any other teenage girl: during the week she works at the Rocola shirt factory in Stones Corner, Creggan where she has become secretary to her boss’s dishy nephew James.

At the weekend she likes music and trips into the city with her best friend, but this is Derry 1972. A simple trip to the shops can lead to life-changing injuries or death and staying at home can be just as dangerous when the British Troops raid house to house .

Robert Sallis is a private with the Royal Fusiliers recently posted to the city. He’s repelled by the way some of his fellow soldiers behave; wary too of civilian feelings running high against the occupying army. Accidentally separated from his patrol in Creggan, he’s discovered by Caitlin hiding in her family’s garden. He expects the worse but having seen enough violence too close to home, she doesn’t give him away. Instead she prefers to daydream about her charming boss who has made his feelings for her plain.

A Catholic girl from the Bogside and the Protestant heir to a big local employer….In her youthful innocence, Caitlin believes their love can overcome the triple obstacles of politics, class and faith. Meanwhile Robert, newly recruited to British undercover forces, is closing in on a terrorist strike in the heart of the city centre.

If you love a terrific thriller with individual stories that form a cataclysmic ending then this book is for you!

Meet Jane Buckley

Jane Buckley has been an avid reader all her life. She began writing her first novel in 2017, and used
the lockdown period to finish ‘Stones Corner: Turmoil.’

She lives just outside Derry, Northern Ireland an is married with two daughters: Cassie, who lives in Oxford, and Maggie who lives in Auckland NZ. She is delighted with her grandchildren, Charlie and Alba.

Debut author Jane Buckley grew up in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of The Troubles. Stones Corner Turmoil is her unbiased account of people on both sides of the sectarian divide, struggling to live and love against a background of chaos and carnage.

From the Author: I was fortunate enough in my previous career to travel all over the world. Time after time and being brutally honest, I got a little frustrated when I’d be asked over and over again, “So tell me, what are the Troubles in Ireland all about?” I wrote the first in my Stones Corner Series to explain and importantly help them experience what it was REALLY like.

Click on Link Below for a Delightful Video of Jane Buckley live from Derry!

Available on Kindle at Amazon


To purchase paperback copies of Stones Corner please visit :


https://janebuckleywrites.com/shop/p/…

Jane Buckley | Stones Corner (@janebuckley_writes) • Instagram photos and videos

(7) Jane Buckley | Facebook

(20) Jane Buckley (@janebuckley_sc) / Twitter

5.0 out of 5 stars Must read, thrilling I couldn’t put it down

Reviewed in the United States on March 31, 2021

This is one of the best books I’ve read. It is a thrilling account that’s based on historical facts that occurred in Derry (Londonderry) during the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It’s a raw emotional and very well written portrayal of the feelings, experiences and the day to day struggle of the lives of all involved during those times. This book is very important too, as a lover of history this story really puts the feelings behind the headlines and pictures that most only read about in newspaper headlines. If you are looking for an important view on this topic, or a thrilling story you can’t put down then pick up this book now!

Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan

May be an image of book, rose and text that says 'STRANGE FLOWERS DONAL DONALRYAN RYAN Booker Prize-nominated author of FROM LOW AND QUIET SEA'

Book Review ( as it appears in the New York Journal of Books.)

“A poignant, masterfully controlled story of love and loss and redemption, Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan is a gorgeous, meditative treatise written in soul-deep, extraordinary language.”

In Donal Ryan’s quietly moving, Strange Flowers, the multigenerational story is so deeply rooted in rural Ireland as to epitomize the idea of character as place. It’s a heart-tugging, family saga with a central focus: the parish of Knockagowny, Tipperary, where a working-class couple’s only daughter, Moll, has packed her valise and disappeared without leaving a trace.  

Paddy and Kit Gladney live in a tidy, small cottage with “a green and yielding world around them in every direction.” Paddy, the local postman and decades-long caretaker of the wealthy Jackman’s farm, and Kit, a bookkeeper, are simple people of devout faith. They remain stoic in the face of their unexplained tragedy. “In the years that followed Moll’s departure on the Nenagh bus, and the Dublin train, Paddy and Kit Gladney lived a solemn half-life of work and prayers and weakening hope, and the earth spun, and the moon phased, and the rain fell, and the sun shone, and their hearts grew heavier and heavier with grief.”

Until one day, five long years later, Moll reappears. Paddy and Kit “were reverent in those first minutes and hours, filled with supernatural awe at this miracle, not quite believing yet that she was real.”

In perfectly measured, lyrical long sentences, Irish traditions and social mores serve as both backdrop and interpreter as Strange Flowers unfolds. The local community is tightly knit, the neighbors sensitive to and solicitous of the Gladney’s plight, and when Father Coyne and Sergeant Crossley appear in the boreen and unlatch the Gladneys’, gate, Paddy suspects they bring no good news concerning what the changed Moll is guarding, with respect to her recent past.

With delicate hesitancy, Sergeant Crossley imparts the news that a young black man from London is in the next parish asking after the Gladney’s location, hoping to locate his missing wife, Moll. Paddy sets out to investigate, while he weighs the situation. “And yet she was back, and she was whole and, yes, she was holding her secrets fast to herself but that didn’t matter. And now it seemed a story had arrived under its own steam from England, in the shape of a gently spoken black man from the land of the old enemy, and there was a strange rightness about his queer situation, of inevitability, of fate’s ineluctable will being done.” On the road to Nenagh, Paddy contemplates the turn of events. “He wondered at how life could be a certain way one minute and a different way altogether the next with no effort at all from the person whose life it was.” 

Alexander Elmwood meets Moll in London during her missing years and remains devoted throughout their unorthodox marriage, though Moll’s love for him is cool and distant. From a loving, religious family that embraces Moll before she disappears from London, Alexander has a child with Moll named Joshua, with black hair and eyes and skin that’s lily white.

When Alexander finds Moll and settles in to Knockagowny, he is willing to weather her aloof nature. He braves being a novelty in Knockagowny. “His blackness here was as remarkable as his son’s whiteness had been in Nottinghill, and all the pain of difference now was his and this was how it had to be.”

When Moll begins to confess her missing years to her mother, “Kit had an idea that some truth was close to being told, something revealed about her daughter that might lead eventually through its revelation to redemption though redemption for what misdoings Kit could not tell.” Moll says to her mother, “I never felt right inside, Mam. From the time I was ten or eleven. There was something wrong with me.” 

Lucas and Ellen Jackman are wealthy landowners whose relationship with the Gladneys crosses class lines. The Gladneys live in the Jackman’s caretaker’s cottage, and their lives are enmeshed to include multiple generations. When Ellen Jackman appears at the Gladney’s cottage at the news of Moll Gladney’s return to Knockagowny, Moll breaks protocol and uncharacteristically rages at Ellen. Kit and Paddy witness the scene and Paddy worries. “He knew, somehow, and so did his wife, by some perfect and unexplainable force of love, that something was wrong with their daughter, inside her, that she was whole now but only just, and that she was in terrible, terrible trouble.”  

Strange Flowers is layered with hidden motivational secrets that culminate in the confusion of Moll and Alexander’s son, Joshua, who flees his Knockagowny home as a grieving and disillusioned teen, and goes to London, where he falls in love with Honey Bartlett, a young woman uncannily tied to more secrets that circle back to his parents and lead Joshua back home.

A poignant, masterfully controlled story of love and loss and redemption, Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan is a gorgeous, meditative treatise written in soul-deep, extraordinary language.  

Claire Fullerton’s most recent novels are Little Tea and multiple award winner, Mourning Dove.