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RECENT RECOMMENDATIONS FROM SOUTHERN INDIES...

Gnomon by Nick HarkawayThis extreme mind-bender is going to appeal hugely to those that love David Mitchell's puzzle box structure in Cloud Atlas, the paranoid/philosophical reality shifts of Philip K. Dick, the encyclopedic adventurousness of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon and Baroque Cycle, William Gibson's razor-edged futuristic social dread, and perhaps even more so the epic literary tapestries of Thomas Pynchon, Wallace's Infinite Jest, and DeLillo's Underworld. Harkaway paints a cautionary future, an uncertain present, and a bloody past, all together in one hallucinatory mindscape of incredible storytelling bravura!

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway ($28.95*, Knopf Publishing Group), recommended by Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, KY.

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

Although I'm not a big fan of Hollywood, this story about Mary Pickford and her best friend Frances Marian quickly drew me in and kept me turning the pages. 

Benjamin knows how to flesh out her characters.  I kept wanting to know more about Mary and Frances. And even Douglas Fairbanks.  Such interesting people. I knew nothing about the events that came crashing down on these silent film stars when the movies went to "talkies." Just never gave it a thought. But how devastating. Such a long fall from grace. 

How timely this powerful novel is with all the horrific news of the casting couch in this decade. And look how long it's been going on. 

Written with a loving hand and a knowing mind, Benjamin has once again knocked it out of the park with The Girls in the Picture.

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin ($28.00*, Delacorte Press), recommended by Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL.

Daily Writing Resilience: 365 Meditations & Inspirations for Writers by Bryan RobinsonThe perfect gift book for the writer (or writer-to-be) in your life!

Daily Writing Resilience: 365 Meditations & Inspirations for Writers by Bryan Robinson ($13.95*, Llewellyn Publications), recommended by Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC.

 A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

Mrs. Caliban by Rachel IngallsA reissue, first published in 1983, this is the surprisingly moving story of an unhappy suburban housewife who harbors, and loves, a six-foot-seven frog-faced creature who has just escaped from a research lab.

None other than John Updike had this to say about the novel: “So deft and austere in its prose, so drolly casual in its fantasy, but opening up into a deep female sadness that makes us stare. An impeccable parable, beautifully written from first paragraph to last."

Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls ($13.95*, New Directions Publishing Corporation), recommended by Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC.

TITLEI'm presently gobsmacked by and head-over-heels in love with Jamie Quatro's Fire Sermon, a gorgeous, searing first novel that takes on themes of grace, God, desire, truth, and family. Told in an array of tenses and forms that range from poetry to email (and everything in between), Fire Sermon takes great risks stylistically, as well as topically, and leaves nothing stable in its wake. It is unsparing and uncompromising; it is singular; it is innervating and strong; and it is a deeply, wonderfully stirring work of art.

Fire Sermon is a force. With the power of a sacred text, and the intimacy of a confession, Jamie Quatro lays bare marriage, sex, art, parenthood, everything. I am in awe of this book.

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro ($24.00*, Grove Press), recommended by Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.

 A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

The Afterlives by Thomas PierceJim Byrd is not really obsessed with death, mortality, and ghosts, but after a peculiar health scare, he can't avoid them. From cryonics to psychic mediums, he seems haplessly fated to encounter the full range of mortality cures. Central among them--and deservedly central in this book--is a staircase at the back of an old house where supernatural physics seem to be in control. As a mini-prologue to each chapter, Pierce lays out a montage of events in the life of previous residents and their families. At first these vignettes seem to support a little ghost story. But by the end, they resolve brilliantly into a poignant comment on Jim's misadventures, and what at first was a story concentrated on death and the hereafter satisfyingly becomes a novel about the ephemeral fragility of life itself.

The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce ($27.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by Turnrow Books, Greenwood, MS.

 A Winter 2018 Okra Pick

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver JeffersThis ADORABLE new picture book is a great gift for any young readers who might enjoy vibrant pictures of the Earth and their surroundings.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers ($19.99, Philomel Books), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.