Thursday, February 20, 2014

A GREAT Night at VHOB Book Club with Amy Franklin-Willis, Author of The Lost Saints of Tennessee

Tuesday night was our 2nd meeting of the VHOB Book Club.  And it was a great night. 1st of all, not counting the author and the store's owners, we had 15 people there.  10 of them were already signed-up members of the book club, and a couple of the other 5 asked to be put on the list.  That brings our current membership up to 21!  We're growing, sports fans.

So back to Tuesday.  We met at 6:30.  Amy arrived at 7:00 and immediately came into our circle (I use the term loosely.  It was more like a snake.  We will be reconfiguring the layout for our next meeting).  And for the next 50 minutes, she answered questions.  It was way cool.  Shortly before 8:00, Amy signed books and chatted with people.  One of the most satisfying parts of the night for me was all of the post-event buzz.  People were outside drinking and eating (Joni put out another great spread).  They were inside in small groups, schmoozing.  The whole bookstore had great energy (and books were purchased).

Amy gave us a couple of interesting tidbits.  First of all, it took her 8 years to write.  In 2007, she got a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation, which enabled her to finish the book.  When she put it out there for literary agents to take a look, she got 15 rejections before 2 agents said they wanted it.  And then, when it went to editors, she got 15 more rejections before 2 editors said yes. After reading Saints, it's hard to imagine any rejections.

She also told us a little bit about the book she's working on now.  I can't say much on pain of dismemberment, but it does pick up a few of the characters from Saints (23 years later - shhhh).
There's no timetable, but all of us there will be at the front of the line (in fact, one very pushy Author Liaison/Booking Agent tried to pin her down on when she's coming back!).

A really fun night was had by all.  And if you didn't see my review of Amy's book from September 20 of last year, here it is.  Aren't you excited?

Let's start by quoting Pat Conroy, that literary god, on the front cover of The Lost Saints of Tennessee, shall we?

A riveting, hardscrabble book on the rough, hardscrabble south, which has rarely been written about with such grace and compassion. It reminded me of the time I read Dorothy Allison's classic, Bastard Out of Carolina.

If it's good enough for Conroy, it should be good enough for me.  But, actually, it's not. Neither Conroy nor anybody else is going to tell me what book to like.  And, in fact, I didn't like The Lost Saints of Tennessee - I LOVED IT!  Amy Franklin-Willis's debut novel is a humdinger.  About 2/3 of the way through, I was ready to give it a 3.5, still pretty darn good.  But from that point on, especially the last 50 pages, it was simply outstanding.  In fact, I basically cried through those entire 50 pages.  Yes, I'm a bit of a softy (a euphemism for a blubbering baby).  But I believe that everybody would like this book. And some of you, yea, maybe quite a few of you, would shed a tear or 10 in the final pages.

What's it about, you ask?  Zeke is a 42-year old who has lost his way.  He's got 3 sisters, a mother, an ex-wife, 2 daughters - and a deceased brother, a twin, who still, 10 years later, has a major presence in Zeke's life.  His relationship with all of them is just so well portrayed and so poignant (an overused word, yes, but appropriate in this case).  Other than his youngest sister, they all live in or around the small town in Tennessee (did you already figure the state out?) Zeke grew up in.

When I'm reviewing a book about relationships, like Beth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and Looking for Me, it's tough to give much detail.  Suffice it to say that each and every one of the people mentioned above, plus a few others as well, has a major role in the man he has become.  These, then, are the big questions:

Will he find romance again?
Will he (re)connect with his 2 daughters, ages 15 and 12?
Will he ever get over the death of his brother?

And, most important:

Is life still worth living?

People, don't take my word for it.  Go to Amazon's ratings.  70 out of 84 people gave the book either 4 stars or 5 (I'm about the only one I know who rates on a 4-star basis; what a rebel I am!).  You can't do much better than that.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you had a wonderful evening. I wish I could have been there!