Friday, June 09, 2006

Ashley Warlick

I just re-read her most recent novel, Seek the Living, and I am blown away by it. The first time I galloped through the book, compelled by the story, the characters, the wonderful voice. This time I slowed down to savor, and enjoyed it even more. I heartily recommend this book. It is a cracking good read. The characters are vivid and believable, and the writing is superb. Warlick was a recipient of a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship and teaches in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte.

The protagonist is a young woman, Joan Patee, whose husband is often away. Their relationship is close, passionate, tender, but as yet without children. Joan spends her days cataloging newspapers, and trying to figure out her past, particularly her brother Denny. The power of the story is in the voice of the protagonist. Here's a sample from near the begining:

"I've come to think it's those loves you are born to, the ones you bear out, that keep you tethered, rather than the ones you pick yourself. And it's not that I don't love my husband, but here I am, in this dark, hurtling car with Denny at the wheel. Here I am, still hunting for the right thing to say, when it's long been clear that words are just a waste of time...I remember coming to this fish camp a long time ago, on our way to and from the farm and the lake...This would have been when we were children, before our father sold the farm and moved to teach full-time at the university, before our sister was born, our mother dead. This would have been before Denny moved to the cemetery, before Hedy, before any women, just girls and mothers and poeple on TV. Such thoughts make me smile.
I wonder what they do for Den."

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