Archive | Giveaways

Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Jennifer Chiaverini

Today’s post by New York Times bestselling author, Jennifer Chiaverini | @jchiaverini

We’ve got a copy of Jennifer’s latest novel, THE SPYMISTRESS, up for grabs today. Enter by using the form below.

Jennifer Chiaverini

Jennifer Chiaverini

Miss Elizabeth Van Lew—a spinster of independent means, a Richmond native, and a proud Virginian—was an unlikely heroine of the Civil War, and yet she was celebrated by Northern generals as “a true Union woman as true as steel ” for risking everything to care for Union prisoners of war and to smuggle crucial Confederate military secrets to the North.

I first discovered the remarkable heroine of my most recent novel, The Spymistress, years ago while researching another Civil War tale. One of my characters, a regimental surgeon in the Union army, was captured at Gettysburg, and when I investigated where he likely would have been taken, all paths led to Richmond’s infamous Libby Prison. Nearly every account I read of that notorious place mentioned Elizabeth Van Lew and the astonishing, audacious risks she took on behalf of the Union captives there. She made such an impression on me that I immediately wrote her into a chapter of that earlier novel, but even as I did, I was convinced that she was so unexpectedly daring, courageous, and clever that she deserved an entire book of her own.

To uncover the truth about Elizabeth Van Lew, I relied upon memoirs and diaries written by Richmond civilians and Union prisoners of war, as well as newspaper reports and official documents from the National Archives. My first and best resource, however, was Elizabeth’s “Occasional Journal, ” an intermittent diary and scrapbook she kept of her wartime experiences. It was really more of a collection of loose papers than a complete, polished memoir, but I was fortunate that any account existed at all, as it was incredibly dangerous for a spy to keep detailed records of her illicit activities. During the war, Elizabeth would hide most of her journal, but she kept certain incriminating pages by her bedside so she could hastily burn them if the house was raided in the night.

After the war, Elizabeth declined an offer to publish a memoir, believing with good reason that doing so would further provoke the anger of her Richmond neighbors, many of whom still resented her for her wartime support of the Union even decades after peace was declared. Instead she hid the manuscript away for many years, revealing its location only upon her deathbed in September 1900. When the box was brought to her from its hiding place, she examined the manuscript and exclaimed, “Why, there is nearly twice as much more. What has become of it? ”

The missing pages, if they truly existed, have never been found, but what remains provides a fascinating if incomplete glimpse into Elizabeth Van Lew’s remarkable wartime adventures—and offered me the inspiration for The Spymistress, a tribute to a Civil War heroine whose name should not be forgotten.

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The SpymistressBorn to slave-holding aristocracy in Richmond, Virginia, and educated by Northern Quakers, Elizabeth Van Lew was a paradox of her time. When her native state seceded in April 1861, Van Lew’s convictions compelled her to defy the new Confederate regime. Pledging her loyalty to the Lincoln White House, her courage would never waver, even as her wartime actions threatened not only her reputation, but also her life.

Van Lew’s skills in gathering military intelligence were unparalleled. She helped to construct the Richmond Underground and orchestrated escapes from the infamous Confederate Libby Prison under the guise of humanitarian aid. Her spy ring’s reach was vast, from clerks in the Confederate War and Navy Departments to the very home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Although Van Lew was inducted posthumously into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, the astonishing scope of her achievements has never been widely known. In Chiaverini’s riveting tale of high-stakes espionage, a great heroine of the Civil War finally gets her due.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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September Book Club Selection

The Husband's Secret Cropped

Update: we’re thrilled to announce that the winner of this giveaway is Sara Thorp. Thanks to all who entered! And don’t forget to check back soon. We have lots of great giveaways lined up for the rest of this year.

I will read anything Liane Moriarty writes. Novel. Essay. Grocery list. Anything. There are maybe five authors that I can truly say that about, and Liane has earned her spot on the list with a remarkable consistency of storytelling and human insight. I can not think of any other author who taps into the female psyche the way she does. And when I pick up one of her novels I have this aerie sensation that someone has been reading my email. She has an inherent grasp on the doubts, fears, insecurities, hopes, dreams, and desires most common to my gender. And when you combine that with a gift for constantly surprising her readers, the result is magic every single time. So when we heard that she had a new novel coming out this fall we reserved a spot at the top of our to-read pile. And when the book came in, we were not disappointed. THE HUSBAND’S SECRET is Liane Moriarty at her best. (Though we also adored her first two novels)

Liane Moriarty Novels

There are few things more fun than reading a book you love only to discover that the author has a backlist. There’s no waiting a year or more for her next book to come out. You can go directly to the bookstore and indulge in her storytelling for a little while longer. Liane’s first two novels, WHAT ALICE FORGOT and THE HYPNOTIST’S LOVE STORY earned her a wide and loyal audience. They are just as spellbinding as THE HUSBAND’S SECRET. And we’re giving all three novels away to one lucky winner! Leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered.

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The Husband's SecretAbout this month’s book club selection:

At the heart of THE HUSBAND’S SECRET is a letter that’s not meant to be read.

“My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…”

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret–something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive…

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all–she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But a letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia–or each other–but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is possible to really know our spouses–and, ultimately, ourselves.

Read the first chapter here.

Add this book to your Goodreads list.

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Liane MoriartyLiane Moriarty is the author of WHAT ALICE FORGOT, THE HYPNOTIST’S LOVE STORY, and THE HUSBAND’S SECRET. She lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two small, noisy children.

Find Liane Moriarty on Facebook.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Tell Me Something True: A Visit With Julie Wu

We’re delighted to announce that the winner of this giveaway is LYNNEGENTRY327. She has been notified via email. Thanks to all who entered and don’t forget to come back soon. We have a number of giveaways lined up for the future.  

Today’s post by author, Julie Wu | @JulieWuAuthor

Thanks to the wonderful people at Algonquin Books, we’ve got a copy of Julie’s novel, THE THIRD SON, up for grabs today. Just leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win.

Julie Wu

Julie Wu

The first time I went to Taiwan, I was four years old.   We drove up to my grandfather’s house in the bed of a delivery truck, and when it stopped to unload us onto the gravel drive, my mother grasped arms with people I had never seen.   As the strangers drew us into the house, my mother pointed to a cluster of oddly-dressed children playing jacks and told me they were my cousins.   To them, she said, “She does not speak Taiwanese. ”

They murmured among themselves and stared at me. “I be-hiau kong Taiwan-oue. ”   “She does not speak Taiwanese. ”

And then they began jeering: “You do not speak Taiwanese!   You do not speak Taiwanese! ”

I watched them all, silent.

I think and have always thought American thoughts, in English.   Whether my assimilation, my immersion in American culture gave me an edge in school or gave me a little extra facility with the English language, I will never know.   For me, most of all, being American has meant feeling free to be an individual.   It was for this reason above all that my parents came to this country, and I both inherited their unwillingness to be bounded by other people’s expectations and took advantage of the American respect for individualism.   My career trajectory—literature major, opera singer, physician, writer, could only have developed here.

I do see the cost of assimilation.   My lack of ability in my parents’ language seems sometimes tragic, and I could not easily rectify it if I tried. Taiwanese has never been the official language of Taiwan, an island subject to foreign rule and foreign languages—now Mandarin Chinese, at one time Japanese—for the duration of its history.   Finding courses or even teaching materials in the language is extremely difficult.

Yet, despite it all—my assimilation, my lack of fluency in Taiwanese, the American lens through which I view life—when I wrote my first novel, The Third Son,   I set it in Taiwan.   First novels can take a long time and that meant, for me, eleven years of thinking, reading, and writing about the people and the landscapes my parents grew up with.   My second novel will be set there, as well.   There is a core part of my psyche that will not be silenced or melded into the blandness of suburban America, a part of me with roots in an island and a culture on the other side of the Earth.

Perhaps it was this part of me that welled up inside, when I was four, watching the circle of children jeering at me.   It welled up, and I took a deep breath of the air that smelled of must and traces of burnt sandalwood.

Wa e-hiau kong Taiwan-we! ”   I shouted for the first time in my life.   “I can speak Taiwanese! ”

The children’s eyes widened.   “She can speak Taiwanese! ”

They jumped up and down all around me on the dark floor, waving their arms, dropping their jacks on the wooden floor.

“You can speak Taiwanese!   You can speak Taiwanese! ”

My mother bent down to me, laughing.   “I didn’t know you could say that! ”

It was all I could say.   But it was more than I’d thought I had in me and, with my cousins, I cheered.

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The Third SonIn the middle of a terrifying air raid
 in Japanese-occupied Taiwan, Saburo, the least-favored son of a Taiwanese politician, runs through a peach forest for cover. It’s there that he stumbles upon Yoshiko, whose descriptions of her loving family are to Saburo like a glimpse of paradise. Meeting her is a moment he will remember forever, and for years he will try to find her again. When he finally does, she is by the side of his oldest brother and greatest rival.

Set in a tumultuous and violent period of Taiwanese history—as the Chinese Nationalist Army lays claim to the island and one autocracy replaces another—and the fast-changing American West of the late 1950s and early 1960s,  The Third Son  is a richly textured story of lives governed by the inheritance of family and the legacy of culture, and of a young man determined to free himself from both.

In Saburo, debut author Julie Wu has created an extraordinary character who is determined to fight for everything he needs and wants, from food to education to his first love. A sparkling and moving story, it will have readers cheering for a young boy with his head in the clouds who, against all odds, finds himself on the frontier
 of America’s space program.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Tell Me Something True – A Visit With Ann Hood

Today’s post by author Ann Hood  

We’ve got a copy of Ann’s latest novel, THE OBITUARY WRITER, up for grabs today. Leave a comment on this post and we’ll enter you in the drawing.

Ann Hood

Update: the winner of of this giveaway is Katherine Jones. She has been notified via email. Thanks to everyone who entered. Please check back soon for more great book reviews and giveaways!

At my friend’s dinner party, she seated me next to a man I did not know. Dinner that night was butternut squash lasagna, and lots and lots of wine. The man was witty and sophisticated, and he regaled me with stories of his years in the Middle East. With all the food and wine and conversation, the night became a pleasant blur, a successful dinner party.

A few days later, my friend called. In a flat voice, she told me Steven was dead from a heart attack. It took me a few minutes to realize that Steven had been my dinner companion. His round flushed face appeared in my mind just as she said: “Will you write his obituary? ”

It is true that I am a fan of obituaries. I even have a favorite obituary writer, Robert McG Thomas, who wrote obits for the New York Times, including his own. But being a fan of reading obituaries is very different from actually writing one. Before I can explain any of this to my friend, she is reminding me that I told Steven I would do this.

“I did? ” I manage to ask her.

“Yes. He said that he loved your writing and that you should write his obituary and you agreed. ”

I want to tell her that I said that hypothetically, after lots of wine. I said that to a man who did not know he was going to die forty-eight hours later. But what I say instead is, “Of course I’ll write it. ”

For the next few days, I worried over what to say about this man. What a responsibility it is, I realized, to sum up an entire lifetime in so few words. Remembering his love of his time in the Middle East, I read Arabic poetry and found quotes about life and love. I did not write an obituary, but rather a short story about this man.

In the end, I knew two things: that the day you were born, the degrees you acquired, the facts of your life, these things do not tell your story. And I knew that I would write a story about an obituary writer, a woman who moves through her own grief by honoring the grief of others. Yes, I wrote Steven’s obituary, but by doing so he, in a way, gave me a gift as well.

A sophisticated and suspenseful novel about the poignant lives of two women living in different eras.

On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, an uncompromising young wife and mother obsessed with the glamour of Jackie O, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless marriage or follow the man she loves and whose baby she may be carrying. Decades earlier, in 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is searching for her lover who disappeared in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. By telling the stories of the dead, Vivien not only helps others cope with their grief but also begins to understand the devastation of her own terrible loss. The surprising connection between Claire and Vivien will change the life of one of them in unexpected and extraordinary ways. Part literary mystery and part love story,  The Obituary Writer  examines expectations of marriage and love, the roles of wives and mothers, and the emotions of grief, regret, and hope.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Tell Me Something True – A Visit With Allie Larkin

Today’s post by Allie Larkin | @AllieLarkin

Allie Larkin

Update: the winner of of this giveaway is Annee. She has been notified via email. Thanks to everyone who entered. Please check back soon for more great book reviews and giveaways!

At my very first book event for STAY, my friend Katherine, who I’ve known since nursery school, made a poster of my book cover and had our friends sign it. She framed it, sent it to Rochester, and colluded with the bookstore staff to have it presented to me with a note that read, “From your oldest friends. “

A few months into my book tour schedule, I did an event near our hometown, and my oldest friends came out in force.   After the reading we crowded around a table at a nearby restaurant, dragging up ancient inside jokes and laughing until our faces hurt. I was overwhelmed by the depth of our shared history, and the comfort of such longstanding familiarity.

Growing up, we had our tiffs and hurt feelings, of course, but we were kind and careful with each other when it mattered most. They are the stars of my favorite childhood memories.

I spent a lot of time while writing WHY CAN’T I BE YOU in Jenny Shaw’s shoes, thinking about who I would have been without my oldest friends, and what might compel Jenny to pretend to be Jessie Morgan when given the chance.

While none of the characters in WHY CAN’T I BE YOU are based on real people, the warmth and heart of Jessie Morgan’s group of friends is inspired by the way it feels to have friends who saved me and challenged me and gave my teenage-self a world to fit in and people to belong to when nothing else felt right. So this book is a love letter to the people who knew me when and love me anyway, the ones I’ve known forever and hold so dear in my heart: my oldest friends. I am lucky to have grown up with them, and to know them still.

We’ve got a copy of WHY CAN’T I BE YOU up for grabs today. Just leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered in our drawing!

At one time or another, everyone has wished they could be someone else. Exploring this universal longing, Allie Larkin follows up the success of her debut novel, Stay, with a moving portrait of friendship and identity.

When Jenny Shaw hears someone shout “Jessie! ” across a hotel lobby, she impulsively answers. All her life, Jenny has toed the line, but something propels her to seize the opportunity to become Jessie Morgan, a woman to whom she bears an uncanny resemblance. Lonely in her own life, Jenny is embraced by Jessie’s warm circle of friends—and finds unexpected romance. But when she delves into Jessie’s past, Jenny discovers a secret that spurs her to take another leap into the unknown.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Tell Me Something True – A Visit With Alison Atlee

Today’s post by Alison Atlee | @AlisonAtlee

We’ve got a copy of Alison’s debut novel, THE TYPEWRITER GIRL, up for grabs today. Simply leave a comment on this post to be entered.

Alison Atlee

UPDATE: the winner for this giveaway is Kathy. She has been notified by email. Thanks to everyone who entered! And don’t forget to visit again soon.

How far is a palazzo in Venice from an American family farm? Lifetimes, worlds, ages. But I was three or four drafts into a “practice novel ” before I realized the two places were actually one: the palazzo my main character and her family were struggling to keep in a post-Napoleonic Venice was also my father’s farm, facing an uncertain future as my father grew older.

Funny, I’d thought I was writing of something far removed from my own life. As a reader and a writer, it’s part of the appeal of historical fiction for me. With the turn-of-the-century world of The Typewriter Girl, I loved thinking of telephone calls and bicycle rides as novelties; I relished the poshness of a seaside hotel I’d seen only in pictures.

Now, before The Typewriter Girl was even a one-celled organism in the primordial soup of my imagination, I bought a silver typewriter jewelry charm. But not for myself. I wanted to celebrate a friend who’d begun seeing success in her submissions to journals and magazines. This gift seemed the perfect way to let her know how proud I was of her.

What I didn’t expect:   My wistfulness as I watched the shop clerk wrap it up, a little voice that wished the charm was right for me, wished I’d earned the right to wear it.

But I’d put boundaries on that dream. Academic writing had burned me out, I was happily busy with a career and family and traveling. Plus, among mountains of books and populations of authors, what special thing did I have to offer? So, maybe someday, but maybe not; it wasn’t that important, life was still good without it.

Excuses, etc. Perhaps that quiet wish on the typewriter charm was the beginning of the end of them. In any case, a few years later, at work on a revision of The Typewriter Girl, I arrived at the following passage:

The house was let for the season, and the family in residence appeared to be expecting guests for the evening, so standing here before it, [Betsey] needed no imagination at all to see it occupied, brimming with life. She imagined anyway. She dreamed in a way she had not since Thomas Dellaforde had allowed his mother to strike her a second time; she dreamed wildly and without boundaries.

I felt rather proud of Betsey at the end of that paragraph—she had, after all, started the story believing her life, restricted as it was, was as good as it was ever likely to be. Now here she was, dreaming wildly.

“Good for you, Betsey, ”   I thought. “Stop limiting yourself. ”

And the voice that wished on the typewriter charm added, “Good for you, too, Alison. ”

ALL BETSEY DOBSON HAS EVER ASKED IS THE CHANCE TO BE VIEWED ON HER OWN MERITS, BUT IN A MAN’S WORLD, THAT IS THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN

When Betsey disembarks from the London train in the seaside resort of Idensea, all she owns is a small valise and a canary in a cage. After attempting to forge a letter of reference she knew would be denied her, Betsey has been fired from the typing pool of her previous employer. Her vigorous protest left one man wounded, another jilted, and her character permanently besmirched. Now, without money or a reference for her promised job, the future looks even bleaker than the debacle behind her. But her life is about to change . . . because a young Welshman on the railroad quay, waiting for another woman, is the one man willing to believe in her.

Mr. Jones is inept in matters of love, but a genius at things mechanical. In Idensea, he has constructed a glittering pier that astounds the wealthy tourists. And in Betsey, he recognizes the ideal tour manager for the Idensea Pier & Pleasure Building Company. After a lifetime of guarding her secrets and breaking the rules, Betsey becomes a force to be reckoned with. Now she faces a challenge of another sort: not only to outrun her sins, but also to surrender to the reckless tides of love. . . .

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Tell Me Something True – A Visit With Maryanne O’Hara

Today’s post by Maryanne O’Hara | @MaryanneOHara

We’ve got a copy of Maryanne’s novel, CASCADE, up for grabs today. Just leave a comment on this post to be entered.

Maryanne O’Hara

UPDATE: the winner for this giveaway is Janet Estridge. She has been notified by email. Thanks to everyone who entered! And don’t forget to visit again soon.

“He’d made lunch for us. He had wine. “

Way back when Cascade was a short story idea—an idea about artists in New York in the 1930s—the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum put me in touch with a few people who had painted for Roosevelt’s “New Deal ” art projects during the Depression. I was interested in the fact that the government, for the first time, had said, 1, that putting artists to work was just as important as putting bridge builders to work, and 2, that art was for everyone.

One of the artists, James Lechay, lived down on Cape Cod. I arranged to interview him one summer Saturday, and although I was looking forward to it, I dreaded the five-hour round-trip trek. My plan was to zip down as fast as I could, interview him, then zip home in time for my evening plans.

But when I arrived in Wellfleet, the loveliest man was eagerly awaiting my arrival. Indeed, he had planned his whole day around it.

James Lechay was 91, and he would live only another three years, but nothing about him seemed particularly old. Even his house was cool and edgy—gunmetal gray, with modern lines and a flat roof, built to his specifications years earlier. He himself was tall, elegant, with soft white hair that fell to his shoulders. Inside, the house was serene and spare. A wall of glass overlooked pine thickets and the distant sea; his semi-abstract paintings lined other walls.

I saw that he’d set the table. He’d made us lunch. He had wine.

No, I didn’t zip anywhere that day. Instead, I spent a long and precious afternoon talking about New York in the thirties, and painting, and about the drive to create that never gets quite satisfied and which never goes away. In fact, I later read that he painted right up until a few days before his death.

My interview with him and two other artists turned into an article for an arts magazine, not a short story. But years later, I incorporated much of that research into Cascade. Some of James Lechay’s spirit inspired the character of Dez, and he completely inspired the novel’s last line.

The nicest true thing? Last year, when Cascade was in production, my husband and daughter gave me one of his paintings for Christmas. A perfect, wonderful gift.

During the 1930s, in a town fighting for its survival, a conflicted new wife with artistic promise must choose between duty and desire
Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will devour this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set within the context of the Depression, NYC during Roosevelt’s New Deal era, and the approaching World War.

1935:   Desdemona Hart Spaulding was an up-and-coming Boston artist when she married in haste and settled in the small, once-fashionable theater town of Cascade to provide a home for her dying father. Now Cascade is on the short list to be flooded to provide water for Boston, and Dez’s discontent is complicated by her growing attraction to a fellow artist. When tragic events unfold, Dez is forced to make difficult choices. Must she keep her promises? Is it morally possible to set herself free?

What do we have to give up to be whom we yearn to be?   CASCADE unfolds like a Shakespearean tragedy, with an ending you won’t see coming. Much like a drowned town, the novel becomes something that you can’t take your eyes from or stop thinking about in wonder.”    The Boston Globe

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Tell Me Something True – A Visit With Beth Webb Hart

Today’s post by the amazing Beth Webb Hart | @bethwebbhart

We’ve got five copies of Beth’s new novel, MOON OVER EDISTO, up for grabs today. (Believe us, you want a copy of this one–Pat Conroy endorsed it.) Just leave a comment on this post to enter.

Marybeth Whalen

UPDATE: the winners for this giveaway are Nuala Reilly, Megan C, Blanche Diane, Karen, and Kerri. They have been notified by email. Thanks to everyone who entered! And don’t forget to visit again soon.

What would be the most difficult thing to forgive?   That was the question I was turning over in my mind like a lemon drop on the tongue when the idea for my new novel, Moon Over Edisto, materialized.   The story is about a young woman, Julia Bennett, whose best friend from college has an affair with her father, and the ripples of this particular betrayal expand like this:   Julia’s father divorces her mother, marries his young love, they have a family of their own before he dies very suddenly of a heart attack one morning while painting a landscape on their Edisto Island dock.

When the novel opens it’s nearly twenty years after the initial affair and Julia, who traded the southern gothic family dysfunction long ago for a life as an artist and art professor in Manhattan, finds her father’s widow — Marney — on her doorstep one night.   Marney slowly divulges her outrageous request.   She wants Julia to come home for the summer and take care of her three young children (Julia’s half-brothers and half-sisters who she’s never had contact with) because she has lung cancer and will need help as she recovers from massive surgery

So how is this story connected to my personal life?   No, my father never had an affair with one of my friends (though I do actually have a friend who this happened to).   But, I did experience betrayal at a very tender age – not the juicy kind — but certainly the slow burning insidious type consisting of verbal lashings, reckless decisions, acute temper flares, intimidation, fear of what might happen next.   And it has taken me years and no small amount of counseling and prayer to work these painful memories and their impact on all of my subsequent relationships.

To spell out the particulars of what happened to me as a child and young adult would harm the process of forgiveness I’ve been undergoing with loved ones.   However, that’s what makes story such a therapeutic place to confront this kind of injustice.   Julia’s fury is my own fury, and the fury of anyone who has been unfairly treated or abandoned.   Her grief was mine too.   And her willingness — at last in the story — to acknowledge the intrinsic frailty and woundedness of those who hurt her most also belonged to me.

Like Julia and like the ones who hurt me when I was young, I’m a broken, flawed, weak human being living in a fallen world where I’m surrounded by others who share my affliction.   I’ve been abused and forsaken, and I’ve done those things right back at the people I loved most, even the most innocent.   Such is my condition, the human condition.   Such is my need for someone to rescue me from myself and the world in which I have no choice but to live.

Julia finds a way through this, and she can’t help but falling in love with the half-brother and half-sisters who are — whether she likes it or not –  her family.   Love covers a multitude of sins.   I know from personal experience, that this much is true.

Edisto Island was where it all came apart.  Can the Bennett girls ever be whole again?

Once, they were the happiest family under the sun, crabbing and fishing and painting on beautiful Edisto Island in South Carolina’s lowcountry.

Then everything went wrong, and twenty years later the Bennett family is still in pieces. Mary Ellen still struggles to understand why her picture-perfect marriage came apart. Daughter Meg keeps a death grip on her own family, controlling her relationships at a distance. And eldest daughter, Julia, left it all behind years ago, forging a whole new life as an artist and academic in Manhattan. She’s engaged to an art dealer and has no intentions of returning to Edisto. Ever.

Then an emergency forces Julia back to Edisto to care for her three young half-siblings. She grudgingly agrees to stay a week. But there’s something about Edisto that changes people. Can Julia and her fractured family somehow manage to come together again under that low-hanging Edisto moon?

“A rich, endearing, can’t-stop-reading book about what matters most, the power of love to transform the human heart. ” —Dorothea Benton Frank,  New York Times  best-selling author,  Porch Lights

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Tell Me Something True – A Visit With Tanis Rideout

Today’s post by Tanis Rideout, author of ABOVE ALL THINGS  

The talented and generous team at Amy Einhorn Books has provided a copy of ABOVE ALL THINGS for one lucky winner. As usual, simply leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered.

Tanis Rideout

UPDATE: the winner for this giveaway is Carol. She has been notified by email. Thanks to everyone who entered! And don’t forget to visit again soon.

My first novel, Above All Things, is based on the 1924 British expedition to Mt. Everest   an historical event and so is filled with true things. Most of them are not about me, but life has a way of creeping into my writing — in big ways and small ways. The way someone looks, a certain nervous tic, the details of an event or room. In order to make George and Ruth’s relationship spring to life I borrowed from my own.

In the novel, George and Ruth recall their first meeting quite differently. Ruth believes it is when her father invites George to stay with their family in Italy and remembers in detail how George first looked, what he said. George, though, recalls meeting her earlier at a New Years Eve Party. “We’ve met before, ” George insists, citing the dinner party, which Ruth remembers attending but she is unable to recall George’s presence at all.

My husband and I agree on our first meeting (though perhaps we’d been in the same room together before) — a reading at a local book store, an introduction by mutual friends — but like George and Ruth, we disagree on what it was that I was wearing. “You wore a red dress, ” George says — echoing my husband’s insistence.   And I agree with Ruth: “But I hadn’t. ”

I don’t recall owning any red dress — though years later I bought one to wear on our anniversary. Both my husband and I are sure we are correct. It has become part of our relationship’s history, a running joke, one that we both believe the other is the punch line of.

I gave this story to George and Ruth for a couple of reasons — to lend their meeting, their first getting to know each other an aura of authenticity — we attach a great deal of importance to how we meet people, particularly lovers. But I also gave them this story to highlight just how much it is possible for us to misremember, mistake and mis-tell of our own lives. One of us, my husband or me, is correct, that much is true. One of us isn’t. It changes nothing about our relationship, but makes me wonder what else might be misremembered or misconstrued. This innocent discrepancy seems hugely important in telling a story, like George and Ruth’s, that is very much about how we narrate and tell our own stories, to ourselves and to others.

“Tell me the story of Everest, ” she said, a fervent smile sweeping across her face, creasing the corners of her eyes. “Tell me about this mountain that’s stealing you away from me. ”  
 
In 1924 George Mallory departs on his third expedition to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Left behind in Cambridge, George’s young wife, Ruth, along with the rest of a war-ravaged England, anticipates news they hope will reclaim some of the empire’s faded glory. Through alternating narratives, what emerges is a beautifully rendered story of love torn apart by obsession and the need for redemption.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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Literary First Love – Julie Kibler

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Julie Kibler | @Julie Kibler

UPDATE: the winners for this giveaway are Susan Coster and Sandy Nawrot. They have been notified by email. Thanks to everyone who entered! And don’t forget to visit again soon.

Those of you reading CALLING ME HOME this month will understand the symbolism of the thimble. But Julie decided she didn’t just want you to read about it, she wanted to share one with you. Which is why she’s giving away two of these thimble necklaces today. One for a reader and one for a member of  our Blog Network. All Blog Network members are automatically entered. And any readers who would like to toss their name in the hat can simply leave a comment on this post.

The first word I clearly remember reading on my own, without prodding from an adult, my fingers running across each letter, was Heidi  —  the title on the colorful cardboard sleeve of a read-aloud record album. I must have read other words before that. I was four or five, and I was an early reader, but for some reason, that experience remains vivid and fills me with nostalgia and the memory of listening to the story.

This doesn’t surprise me. Throughout my childhood, I was drawn to nostalgic stories about girls who were marginalized but remained or became strong.  I was a painfully shy, often lonely girl. We moved a lot. I attended seven different schools. We never seemed to have quite enough money to make ends meet, and my brother and I were frequently ridiculed or bullied by the kids who had lived in our neighborhoods their whole lives. Being a preacher’s daughter often made things worse. Strong female characters who chased their dreams in spite of seemingly insurmountable barriers resonated with me. I lived vicariously through my fictional friends when my own life felt out of control.

They were orphans — Heidi, Pollyanna, Anne Shirley, Sara Crewe, Mary Lennox, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase‘s Sylvia Green.

They were poor and/or living on the edges of society  —  Laura Ingalls Wilder, Francie Nolan, Anne Frank,  The Borrowers’ Arietty Clock,  Blue Willow‘s Janey Larkin, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March.

They were just plain different  —  Cress Delehanty, Velvet Brown, Ramona the Pest, Caddie Woodlawn.

Or they were all three  —  Pippi Longstocking.

I grew up, married, and had babies. I divorced and lived five years as a single mom before remarrying. Now I’m following a career path I dreamed about for as long as I can remember—author.

And I’m not a bit surprised that I’m drawn to writing nostalgic stories about characters who are marginalized, yet resilient, characters who attempt to build happy lives and strong families in spite of their circumstances. In Calling Me Home, Isabelle is a young girl who falls in love despite all the naysayers. Dorrie is a single mom who would do anything for her children when they’re in trouble, yet believes she must handle her brokenness alone.

In spite of our differences, I am all of them. And they are me.

What characters did you relate to as a child? What characters did you want to be?

 

 

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About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

read more