Author: Lemuria (Page 1 of 16)

Staff Nonfiction Favorites for 2017

We’re coming to the end of another exciting year for books. Below are a list of books that our staff consider to be the very best of the year in nonfiction, from the horrors of war, crime, and discrimination to the beauty of music, poetry, humor, and solitude. We encourage you to come to Lemuria and check these books out, either as a great gift for Christmas or a present to yourself to read in the new year.

all nonfiction

Did you enjoy our recommendations? We hope so–but we want to hear from you, dear readers! Tell us your favorite fiction, nonfiction, or children’s books published in 2017. Reach out to us on social media, e-mail us at blog@lemuriabooks.com, or come visit us at the store! All we need is your name and your favorite book of 2017, and a brief description like the ones above and a picture of your book if you wish. We will be dedicating a post next week to our the customers and community of Lemuria. Here’s to a happy new year, full of more great books!

Iles’ ‘The Bone Tree’ a gripping page-turner, all 816 of them

JOIN US TOMORROW AT 1:00 FOR A SPECIAL SIGNING EVENT OF THE BONE TREE BY GREG ILES!

By Jim Ewing. Special to The Clarion-Ledger

Even for readers of Greg Iles’ 788-page Natchez Burning, book one in the trilogy about unsolved civil rights murders set in Natchez, The Bone Tree has daunting heft with 816 pages. But if Burning were a jet runway, Bone Tree launches into supersonic flight. It starts off with a lightning pace and is engrossing until the very end that, surprisingly, seems to come too soon.

Natchez Burning set the groundwork of the characters, including protagonist Penn Cage, a novelist, one-time prosecutor and current mayor of Natchez, his fiancee Caitlin Masters, publisher of the local newspaper, and Cage’s father Tom Cage, a beloved longtime family physician. Bone Tree fleshes them out as living characters with their own strengths and foibles.

The first book set the plot in motion when these three main characters’ lives were turned upside down by the reemergence of the Double Eagles, a more murderous offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan, that had aligned itself with one of the richest men in Louisiana just across the Mississippi River; and a corrupt relative of the aging Eagles who aspired to be head of the Louisiana State Patrol. The eruption of old horrors was prodded by a local newspaper editor who had been steadily digging into civil rights cold cases.

At the end of Burning, there seemed to be some hope for normalcy and the solving of heinous unsolved race crimes that had darkened the land for a generation; but at the outset of Bone Tree, all hope for an easy resolution is lost.

Jacket14Bone Tree immediately goes to the blackened heart of the South’s racial torture, lynchings and murder by zeroing in on the relations between the Eagles and Carlos Marcello, the notorious crime boss of Louisiana. Iles folds in the undeniable reality of the South’s sordid racial history and the history of vice and corruption in Louisiana. Within the framework of his fiction, these truths are starkly revealed in all their brutality. But he goes a step further in very convincingly weaving the story of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., through his narrative.

Thus, the mystery of old race crimes intensifies with the larger question of the biggest unsolved murder in American history: the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The missing link seems to be a Cuban connection, where the old racists were believed to have trained volunteers with CIA help for the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. Much of the mystery revolves around that question.

It’s said that fiction reveals the truth that reality obscures. Natchez Burning proves it by so honestly recounting the race killings of the South in the form of fiction, and so realistically portraying the killers, that the novel’s authenticity strikes true.

The Bone Tree goes even further: So deeply fleshing out the types of individuals who could have carried out the 1960s assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, that what are often called “conspiracy theories” become not only plausible but seemingly self-evident. Adding to the suspension of disbelief are the reams of facts and the inclusion of recognizable public figures such as The Clarion-Ledger’s longtime civil rights cold case investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell.

Iles’ The Bone Tree is simply astounding. It’s astounding that:

816 pages can be a gripping page-turner;

It comes after 788-page volume that left readers hungry for more, yet didn’t lose any momentum even with filling in details to get new readers up to speed;

Only 24 hours goes by in the first 400 pages, yet it doesn’t lag;

It can tie the reader in knots until the very end.

With all its twists and turns, The Bone Tree is likely to leave the reader emotionally like a wrung-out dishrag, but thirsty for more.

 

 

Jim Ewing, a former writer and editor at The Clarion-Ledger, is the author of seven books including Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating, and the forthcoming Redefining Manhood: A Guide for Men and Those Who Love Them, Spring 2015.

 

Bragg’s ‘Jerry Lee Lewis’ Teaches Writers How To Write

By Jim Ewing
Special to The Clarion-Ledger

Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story should be included in every workshop on How To Write.

Jacket (6)Professors of English can point to its lyric prose that coils on itself like a snake. Political scientists and historians can find ample fodder for topics as diverse as the forces that brought the likes of Huey P. Long and Theo G. Bilbo to power.

Religious scholars and sociologists can refer to its accuracy in exploring the relationship between cultural conservatism and the moral implications of rock ’n’ roll. But readers are at once ensnared by the man Jerry Lee Lewis himself, whose music “made Elvis cry.”

As Bragg, a Southernor, well understands, we cannot fathom Lewis’s music until we have felt the lash and storm of his upbringing. Bragg traces Mississippi-Louisiana history from its violent, bitter beginnings of conquest, duel, slavery and song into the 20th century.

He paints the place with levees so tall “a man had to walk uphill to drown.” A cauldron of people, passions and violence, from Ferriday, La., to Natchez, Miss., to New Orleans, to Memphis, he lays out the landscape where Jerry Lee Lewis found form and substance, where gamblers and oil speculators, prostitutes and hoboes “came off the boxcars like fleas.”

Lewis’s rearing came amid the vast wealth of the few torn from the misery of the many dirt poor working people, great river floods, rampant political corruption, and The Great Depression’s soul-killing darkness — that spawned hungry children and heartbreak, whiskey, drugs and the devil eternally dancing in the shadows. Preachers and bootleggers sometimes were the same. They were his blood kin, as some of us admit are our own. They all knew they were sinners and The Killer seemed preordained to sing their songs.

Jerry Lee was born of the stuff of country legends, learning to croon at the knee of his father Elmo between his prison stints and sitting in a pew with his mother listening to the Pentecostals speaking in tongues.

885e64c67bedda87306decbcc5318Lewis credits a major influence Haney’s Big House, a black honky tonk in the Jim Crow South where white men feared to tread and “women toted straight razors in their underwear.”

“It’s where I got my juice,” Lewis told Bragg, giving his music its characteristic guts, grit and power.

Bragg details Lewis’s long march into greatness and despair: the honky tonks, women, pills, hit songs, fist fights, and scandal over marrying Myra, his 13-old-cousin — one of six marriages by the pioneer of rock ’n’ roll — some memories “like playing catch with broken glass.”

Along the way are music trivia gems, such as Lewis’s signature hit Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, supposedly written by a black man at a fish camp on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee while drunk and milking rattlesnakes.

Bragg’s genius is alternating laser observations about the man and his milieu with stunning word play wrapped in seemingly effortless but exhaustive research. Bragg proves himself to be a journalist’s journalist by turning painstaking reportage into art.

Bragg doesn’t just chronicle a man but a region, and leads us like a secular evangelist to reexamine our own songs and sins.

Of Lewis, Bragg reports: “He did some meanness, God knows he did. But the music — funny how it turned out — was the purest part.”

Jim Ewing, a former writer and editor at The Clarion-Ledger, is the author of seven books including Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating, and the forthcoming Redefining Manhood: A Guide for Men and Those Who Love Them, Spring 2015. Jim is a regular contributor to the Lemuria blog. 

The Marauders: Signed First Editions Available!

By Jim Ewing
Special to The Clarion-Ledger

Jacket (3)On one level, The Marauders, a first novel by Tom Cooper, is the story of a treasure seeker with a metal detector looking for the buried bounty of Jean Lafitte.

Set in the fictional town of Jeanette in the Bataria region north of New Orleans where the famous pirate once roamed, it also is a realistic and detailed tale of despair among shrimpers and others who make their living from the water in the days after the twin tragedies of the Gulf Oil Spill and Hurricane Katrina.

In that way, The Marauders provides a fictional base for an all-too-real reality: the destruction of people’s homes, families, livelihoods due to natural and man-made disasters.

The plot is carried along by five sets of characters:
— Wes, a young man, and his father who lost their mother/wife to the storm surge of Katrina;
— Two felonious small-time hustlers who are seeking to rob and swindle their way to wealth;
— A set of monstrously evil twin brothers and their secret island of illegal marijuana;
— A miserable representative of the oil company trying get his former neighbors to sign on to a cut-rate settlement, hating himself for it and hating the region he has been trying to put behind him;
— The treasure-seeker, Lindquist, a one-armed man addicted to pain pills and living in the wreckage remaining from his broken marriage.

In the tradition of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, Cooper with The Marauders uses fiction to expose to the public the grinding inequities and institutional unfairness facing a people trying to make do with less and less in a world where every card is seemingly dealt against them.

That story, in real life, is still playing out — witness the recent news stories where BP attorneys are disputing U.S. Justice Department claims that the accident “caused serious and widespread sociocultural harm to coastal communities.”

On a more symbolic note, the one-armed man, Lindquist, is a Gulf Coast Everyman desperately trying against all odds to find something valuable and good in the muck and ruin of a world breaking bad.

But to readers The Marauders is a good read filled with believable characters of the type found in this region. The suspense builds as the lives of those characters entwine with sometimes predictable and sometimes surprising results.

There are some criticisms that can be made. The plot moves slowly as Cooper spends a great deal of time building such a relatively large cast of main characters that exemplify the various facets of circumstances and despair arising from the disasters.

Then, some readers not familiar with the region might need that amount of detail. It’s well written and only slows the pace a bit. Too, Cooper could have added some layers of depth to the characters. More accomplished authors learn to weave small details that give nuance to relationships.  But these are minor flaws that come with time, and polish.

As a first novel set in New Orleans and environs, Cooper’s Marauders shines for its local flavor, colorful characters and picturesque scenes. Let’s hope Cooper continues to write more thrillers set in this locale for many years to come By the way, The Marauders would make a dynamite movie!

Jim Ewing, a former writer and editor at The Clarion-Ledger, is the author of seven books including Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating, and the forthcoming Redefining Manhood: A Guide for Men and Those Who Love Them, Spring 2015. Jim is a regular contributor to the Lemuria blog. 

Guest Post: Gifford’s Up-Down reprises Sailor and Luna saga

Special to the Clarion-Ledger

barrygiffordBarry Gifford explains in the beginning of his new novel that in ancient cultures, it was believed that there were five directions: North, South, East, West and Up-Down, which represented the navel or center. It’s an inward direction that his protagonist, Pace Ripley, intended to go in order to explain his life, which at this point had extended six decades.

It’s a good thing Gifford provides this road map because without it, one might be lost as to what to make of the rapid twists and turns of Pace’s life — or, rather, this series of bizarre incidents that form an amoral (from the standpoint of organized religion) morality tale.

The lessons can be as obvious as the necessity to face one’s own fears and let go of old demons to the inexplicable which also serves up the point that life often just is inexplicable. Or, as Pace is told when awakened from a dream by a voice in the darkness: “God is a disappointment to everyone.”

Pace is the son of Sailor Ripley and Lula Fortune whose tales titillated readers for decades. He was a minor character, noted for the predicaments life seemed to offer him. He wandered out of the S&L tales as a young man by going to Katmandu and then marrying a New Yorker.

875491_1779185_lzGifford’s Sailor and Lula became popular in the 1990s. Readers might remember the film adaptation of the first S&L book Wild at Heart (1990) starring Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern.

In that one, Sailor gets out of prison for time spent protecting Lula that resulted in a manslaughter conviction, while Lula’s mother tries to keep them apart (a thread throughout the books). They meet any number of odd characters and situations that involve quick deaths when the plot gets sticky.

By any other author, such deus ex machina might seem contrived but Gifford pulls it off, mainly because his characters are often so unbelievably believable that when the unbelievable happens, it just becomes as believable as the rest.

While Gifford’s plots are rather languid and often marked by the aforementioned quick deaths, the reader doesn’t suffer, as the observations and interplay between characters are quite juicy (sometimes R-rated).

downloadThat continues in Up-Down, which is subtitled “The almost lost, last Sailor and Lula story, in which their son, Pace Roscoe Ripley, finds his way.”

Sailor and Lula fans will love this book and hope more “lost” tales will be found!

Biographies of Gifford state that his father was in in organized crime, and he spent his childhood largely in Chicago and New Orleans living in hotels. If so, that explains much of the richness of his writing, offbeat characters and random violence.

For new fans, the entire series is compiled in Sailor and Lula: The Complete Novels (Seven Stories Press, 2010, 618 pages, $19.95).

Gifford obviously knows a great deal about Mississippi, using place names and common characters throughout his S&L books. The stories may be the closest Mississippi has to the equally wacky Serge Storms sagas by Tim Dorsey, who peoples his characters in Florida.

The Up-Down can be seen as a coda to the S&L books, or even a koan of sorts, to underscore the fact that life is not logical or comprehensible and it can only be understood intuitively, experimentally. That, also, may be considered wisdom.

 

Jim Ewing, a former writer and editor at The Clarion-Ledger, is the author of seven books including Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating, and the forthcoming Redefining Manhood: A Guide for Men and Those Who Love Them, Spring 2015.

Barry Gifford will be at Lemuria January 28th at 5 PM to read and sign from his book, The Up-Down. 

Disappearing Rosa Parks: Where Did All the Women Heroes Go?

Written by Johnathan Odell, author of The Healing and a new rendering of his debut novel, The View from Delphi: Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League. Available on February 4, Rosa Parks’s 102nd birthday. 

When I was interviewing Mississippians for my book, an elderly black man talked about his days as a sharecropper. He summed up his experience like this, “When God handed out possessions, he must have give the black man the plow and the white man the pencil.” It was his way of saying that under Jim Crow, the black man did all the work, but no matter how big a crop you brought in, it was the figures the white man put down in his ledger that decided if there would be any money that season, or if the sharecropper would remain in economic servitude to the land owner.

I have also found that saying helpful in understanding the way the historical record is maintained as well. It’s now widely accepted that if a white man is writing the story, the role of blacks tend to get diminished as agents of their own liberation. They are often portrayed as longsuffering victims waiting to be saved by the benevolent acts of white people. Black heroes have a hard time finding themselves in print. My black friends call this “Killing the Mockingbird Syndrome”, for the way that famous book relegates blacks to pitiful, powerless dependents. As I say, though, we are becoming aware of this dynamic, thanks to a growing number of black historians.

But as I researched the Civil Rights period for “Miss Hazel in the Rosa Parks League,” I ran into another significant discrepancy in how the story is told.

To change up the saying a bit, if the white man got the pencil, and the black man got the plow, then the black woman got the harness to pull that plow through the stony fields of the Civil Rights Movement. Her acts of courageous resistance are even more overlooked by history than that of the black man.

I think there are multiple reasons for this. One is the nature of the violence during that time. Black men were constantly in the crosshairs.  Face it, most of racism in the South stems from white fear that black men want white women (and the deep insecurity that it could be reciprocal!). So the focus of white paranoia was on black men. They were the ones whites had to keep an eye on, so the risk was higher for them to overtly resist. Black women were the lowest of the low as for perceived power and threat to white superiority. They could get a lot of things done their men could not because they were more “invisible.”  They had jobs that took them into the most intimate spaces of the white life. They could come and go more freely. They could pool information, influence through personal relationship with white women. They were uniquely positioned to subvert white power, but it was from the shadows.

And of course patriarchy exists in the black community just as it does in the white community. The public spokespeople for African Americans have historically been male just as they had been for whites.  In the 1950’s and 60’s, if white male leaders were going to deal directly with anyone it would have to be black leaders who were also male. “Man to Man.” That was the culture. Newspapers, T.V, radio, all the communication channels that African Americans needed to get their message out were necessarily looking for the black male spokesperson for the real story.  The country as a whole wasn’t ready to see women of any race as leaders of a legitimate movement. The credible face on the evening news needed to be a Martin Luther King, not a Rosa Parks.

So it may have been a necessary convention, but the tragedy is that still we give those public male faces most of the credit, when it was an army of women who assumed the lion’s share of the risk and got the job done. That’s not a new story, and unfortunately, not a defunct one.

The truth is, when it came time to publically defy white authority throughout the South, it was black women who took to the streets, to the registrar’s office and to the whites-only schoolhouse. Mississippian Fannie Lou Hamer, one of the most influential figures in the Civil Rights story, male or female, put it bluntly. She said it wasn’t the male “chicken eatin’ preachers” who were the backbone of the movement, but the fieldworkers like herself, the illiterates, the mothers with nothing else to loose, the sassy “Saturday night brawlers.”

Even today, this bias for male heroes still serves to obscure the real contributions of women like Rosa Parks, who is often portrayed as a tired, longsuffering, meek woman whose feet were tired. When in actuality she was a seasoned activist, youthful and full of passion. She had been stepping out into the battlefield long before she got on that bus, and kept stepping long after.

 

Praise for MISS HAZEL AND THE ROSA PARKS LEAGUE

“A terrific writer who can take his place in the distinguished pantheon of Southern fiction”

–Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini

“Here it comes—barreling down the track like a runaway train, a no-holds-barred Southern novel as tragic and complicated as the Jim Crow era it depicts…. This is a big brilliant novel whose time has come.”

–Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls and Guests on Earth

“With its deftly drawn characters, delicious dialogue, and deeply satisfying and hopeful ending, this fine novel deserves to win the hearts of readers everywhere. Book clubs, this one is definitely for you!”

— Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters

“Odell vividly brings to life a fabulous cast of characters as well as a troubling time in our not-so-distant past. You won’t want to miss this one!”

— Cassandra King, author of The Sunday Wife and Moonrise

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: A Homecoming

Written by Mary Sellers

I recently returned to Jackson after having gone to college and subsequently staying an extra year in Oxford, MS. It was a strange return—I remember crying on the way home because of the empty room I was leaving behind, the memories that seemed to cease their glitter as soon as I removed all of my pictures from the walls. The room was bare, and I could see the thumbtack spots from my posters, the dust that had collected in the corners like small, grey clouds, my roommates’ faces.

But I moved, because deep down it was the right thing to do. I needed a fresh start because I wasn’t growing anymore in Oxford. I’d become stilted and a little depressed, and however much I still miss it, even now, it was just my time.

I was afraid of Jackson. Having grown up here, gone to school, and left, I never thought I’d be returning. Two years ago I would have literally laughed in your face. I’m only here for a year (well, that’s the plan, at least), but I was nonetheless terrified of losing myself, of becoming someone who I’d hate, who my Oxford self would hate. But instead, I found the warmth of friends, and for the entire first month, reconnected with some of my oldest acquaintances. I went to dinner, got lost in new places, and generally spent way too much money. But it was something I needed—a re-connection with the place I’d grown up in but never really experienced as an adult. It’s a completely different thing being old enough but young enough to enjoy the new Jackson. Luckily, I’m right in that sweet spot.

And to my surprise, it’s incredibly fun. The Fondren area in particular is astoundingly cool; the restaurants are innovative and young adult-friendly; the bars here give a few of my Oxford favorites a run for their money, even. I’ve embarrassed myself at Karaoke, I’ve gone to a street concert series, and I’ve sipped margaritas on the porch of Babalu, surrounded by people that I respect and admire. It’s a warm place, and vibrant, too.

Fondren Corner_DSC0934

I live alone, which I’ll admit has been an adjustment. But I wouldn’t trade my location for anything. I can skip across the street to McDade’s at any point during the day, which feels strangely nostalgic—I’ve never been able to walk to the grocery store before. The cashiers are coming to recognize me, even greet me, and I them. I take advantage of the plethora of coffee shops that are scattered around town. As a writer, I welcome a nice office filled with the nutty aroma of coffee beans and subdued keyboard typings. At night, I sit outside in my porch chair and listen to the shocking collection of cicadas around my house.

It’s still an adjustment, but I’m glad to say that Jackson is feeling more and more like home each and every day. It’s taken time, but thanks to a strong support group of friends, and my own desire to rediscover my hometown for all that she’s worth, I think I can finally say that I’m trying for happy.

 

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at lemuriabooks.com. Ken Murphy will be at Lemuria on Tuesday, December 23 at 11:00 to sign and personalize copies of Jackson. Don’t miss it! 

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: My dream of reliving the Farish Street of my youth

Written by Jimmie E. Gates, political writer/columnist at The Clarion-Ledger

 

When I was in my teens, one of my biggest thrills was coming to Farish Street in downtown Jackson.

It was the sight and sounds of a hustling mecca of black life. There were snappy dressed females with their hats. There were men dressed in classy suits, which made you think of The Apollo Theater or the old Cotton Club in Harlem. We had our Crystal Place on Farish Street, and for good measure, we had our Alamo Theater, which was a movie theater. I will never forget going to the Alamo Theater to watch Bruce Lee movies, Godzilla versus the Three-Headed Monster, and most of all watching actress Pam Grier in films.

AlamoSign_DSC3196

Those were the days for me growing up. Farish Street was like a whole new world to me. There would be Mr. Armstrong selling Jet Magazines on Farish Street and vendors selling roasted peanuts in small bags and other items. The shoe shine guy, “Bear Trap,” would stay busy; there was a bakery/donut shop, but my favorite was the ice cream plant. Whenever we would be on Farish Street, we would always go by the ice cream plant. The ice cream man, whose name escapes me today, would give us ice cream bars. He would always be dressed in a white uniform and wearing a hat to match.

We would always come to Farish Street and shop. Although Farish Street was the mecca of black life in the 60s and 70s, many of the clothing stores and shoe stores were Jewish-owned.

I will never forget my Farish Street days. I don’t know when Farish Street began to deteriorate, but it probably occurred after the first mall opened in the city. Jackson Mall opened in 1969 followed by  Metrocenter in 1978. Farish Street stores and other stores began to leave the downtown area for the malls.

We longed for the bygone days of our youths; sometimes wondering if we can recreate those years.

I pass the empty shell of the buildings lining Farish Street today wondering if the hustle and bustle of the street will ever live again.

Decades have gone by since Farish Street was the place to go. There have been talk about reclaiming the area as an entertainment district, but the talk hasn’t materialized into returning Farish Street to its heydays.

I know others have their own fond memories of places and things in Jackson that were once special to them. Farish Street was that place for me.

There was a song by the late Luther Vandross  called “Dance With My Father” that was one of my favorites. The lyrics were based upon Vandross’ childhood  memories of  his late father and mother often dancing together. Vandross knew his dream could never come true when he wrote the song because his father was deceased. We all have our dreams; the dreams that would make us happy. Seeing Farish Street alive again with life and vitality would be a dream come true for me.

 

 

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: Building Castles between here and New Orleans

Written by Jim Pathfinder Ewing 

Meeting Katy Simpson Smith at a book signing and reading at Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS, I was immediately captivated by her infectious smile, her sweet presence, her unassuming grace. She seemed baffled that her first book, The Story of Land and Sea, had excited such interest in the book world.
As the publisher HarperCollins describes it: Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, the novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave—characters who yearn for redemption amid a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.
But it’s much, much more.
It was happenstance that I was at Lemuria at all, much less buying her book. I had stopped by to have some signed first editions put in mylar so they might wear better on the shelf, and Adie and Maggie who work there, asked me if I was coming to the signing. What signing? I asked.
They told me about this young writer, 28, who grew up in Jackson and was making waves with her debut novel. In Jackson? How could I not know her? So, I bought the book and stayed, and was the first person to greet her when she arrived. We chatted and I thought, hmmm, sweet lady.
Little did I know that the surface of this woman was like the ocean she described — smiles and laughter like jumping fish and mermaids — covering unfathomable depths where leviathans live unceasing and unknown.
Once I picked up the book, I was hooked.
Lyrical, poetic, masterful, each page is a delight. I found myself not worrying about the plot, each page its own reward. My thoughts about the book became a barely conscious narrative itself: 
 
I don’t want it to stop. She skirts through the puzzles of people’s hearts like sure fingers on combination locks, first left, then right, then left again, releasing understandings that roll through me like waves. 
Young and old, they are all the same: transparent to her in magical ways. I am mesmerized as the pages glide by, getting my sea legs in this voyage of discovery. I cannot put the book down.
As the chapters flow, and I take breaks now and then, to rest, recuperate, gather myself. I plunge back again and again; from sea to land, from land to sea, taking deep breaths, from a gathering intelligence of who is who and how, to knowing I was unknowing, only thinking I knew. I gasp as each chapter forms a sea change in the facets revealed about each character. 
In the first chapter, my feet on solid ground, I don’t like Asa, the grandfather. He’s a hateful, self-righteous man, through his clinging to religion. In the next, I see him as a young man, and my heart breaks for him; I am him. How did that happen? And I hate Helen, the mother, his daughter, for her cold, callous pretension; even, as before, I had felt the husband’s and the granddaughter’s longing and loss for her. Now, I see, I had only seen her as a ship on the horizon, her gallant sails, the dim outline, defiant and wonderful as she sailed into the golden sunset of memory. But wait! What’s this! Quick as a riptide, the roles change again. Helen, the mother, in love; Asa turning, turning … into what he will become.
We delve deeper and deeper, exploring, finding, shifting, changing.
As the pages turn and mount, I grow fearful the book will end, and where will I be? On sea or land? 
 
Now, having made the voyage, I am spent; in awe and slightly resentful. Like the father, a privateer, she has stolen my admiration. It’s a prize hard won. Enduring.
Since I met her at the book signing, and sat with her, and conversed, and heard her speak to an audience, I wonder: How can someone so young, this author, fathom so many diverse people, and present them in all their mystery and unconscious revelation?
I think back to the photo I took of her, so full of life and easy laughter; how can such depth of knowledge reside there? Her bright face, her youthful demeanor, are like the book’s cover: beautiful, well crafted, but the inner pages tell a different story: of love and loss, poignant hopes and crushing realities. Unless you take the time to hear her words in your own mind, you will never know certain secrets that are universal, hidden in your own heart.
It is a joy and a wonder to have a Jackson author of such talent. She could live and write anywhere. But she doesn’t, building her castles between here and New Orleans.
I look forward to her next book, on land, sea or air.
Here’s a story about her in the New Orleans Times-Picayunehttp://www.nola.com/books/index.ssf/2014/08/katy_simpson_smith_grabs_natio.html
Jim PathFinder Ewing has written six books, published in English, French, German, Russian and Japanese. His latest is “Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating” (Findhorn Press, 2012). His next book — about which he is mysteriously silent — is scheduled to be released in Spring, 2015. Find him on Facebook, join him on Twitter @EdiblePrayers, or see his website,www.blueskywaters.com

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: Building Castles between here and New Orleans

Written by Jim Pathfinder Ewing 

Meeting Katy Simpson Smith at a book signing and reading at Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS, I was immediately captivated by her infectious smile, her sweet presence, her unassuming grace. She seemed baffled that her first book, The Story of Land and Sea, had excited such interest in the book world.
As the publisher HarperCollins describes it: Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, the novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave—characters who yearn for redemption amid a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.
But it’s much, much more.
It was happenstance that I was at Lemuria at all, much less buying her book. I had stopped by to have some signed first editions put in mylar so they might wear better on the shelf, and Adie and Maggie who work there, asked me if I was coming to the signing. What signing? I asked.
They told me about this young writer, 28, who grew up in Jackson and was making waves with her debut novel. In Jackson? How could I not know her? So, I bought the book and stayed, and was the first person to greet her when she arrived. We chatted and I thought, hmmm, sweet lady.
Little did I know that the surface of this woman was like the ocean she described — smiles and laughter like jumping fish and mermaids — covering unfathomable depths where leviathans live unceasing and unknown.
Once I picked up the book, I was hooked.
Lyrical, poetic, masterful, each page is a delight. I found myself not worrying about the plot, each page its own reward. My thoughts about the book became a barely conscious narrative itself: 
 
I don’t want it to stop. She skirts through the puzzles of people’s hearts like sure fingers on combination locks, first left, then right, then left again, releasing understandings that roll through me like waves. 
Young and old, they are all the same: transparent to her in magical ways. I am mesmerized as the pages glide by, getting my sea legs in this voyage of discovery. I cannot put the book down.
As the chapters flow, and I take breaks now and then, to rest, recuperate, gather myself. I plunge back again and again; from sea to land, from land to sea, taking deep breaths, from a gathering intelligence of who is who and how, to knowing I was unknowing, only thinking I knew. I gasp as each chapter forms a sea change in the facets revealed about each character. 
In the first chapter, my feet on solid ground, I don’t like Asa, the grandfather. He’s a hateful, self-righteous man, through his clinging to religion. In the next, I see him as a young man, and my heart breaks for him; I am him. How did that happen? And I hate Helen, the mother, his daughter, for her cold, callous pretension; even, as before, I had felt the husband’s and the granddaughter’s longing and loss for her. Now, I see, I had only seen her as a ship on the horizon, her gallant sails, the dim outline, defiant and wonderful as she sailed into the golden sunset of memory. But wait! What’s this! Quick as a riptide, the roles change again. Helen, the mother, in love; Asa turning, turning … into what he will become.
We delve deeper and deeper, exploring, finding, shifting, changing.
As the pages turn and mount, I grow fearful the book will end, and where will I be? On sea or land? 
 
Now, having made the voyage, I am spent; in awe and slightly resentful. Like the father, a privateer, she has stolen my admiration. It’s a prize hard won. Enduring.
Since I met her at the book signing, and sat with her, and conversed, and heard her speak to an audience, I wonder: How can someone so young, this author, fathom so many diverse people, and present them in all their mystery and unconscious revelation?
I think back to the photo I took of her, so full of life and easy laughter; how can such depth of knowledge reside there? Her bright face, her youthful demeanor, are like the book’s cover: beautiful, well crafted, but the inner pages tell a different story: of love and loss, poignant hopes and crushing realities. Unless you take the time to hear her words in your own mind, you will never know certain secrets that are universal, hidden in your own heart.
It is a joy and a wonder to have a Jackson author of such talent. She could live and write anywhere. But she doesn’t, building her castles between here and New Orleans.
I look forward to her next book, on land, sea or air.
Here’s a story about her in the New Orleans Times-Picayunehttp://www.nola.com/books/index.ssf/2014/08/katy_simpson_smith_grabs_natio.html
Jim PathFinder Ewing has written six books, published in English, French, German, Russian and Japanese. His latest is “Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating” (Findhorn Press, 2012). His next book — about which he is mysteriously silent — is scheduled to be released in Spring, 2015. Find him on Facebook, join him on Twitter @EdiblePrayers, or see his website,www.blueskywaters.com

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