Some of the reading I did in my free time at Wildacres included two books by workshop participants and two by faculty members.
If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss introduces Sadie Blue with this first sentence: "I struggle to my feet, straighten my back, lift my chin, and he hits me again. Set in Appalachia (in the county next to my own,) the novels chronicles Sadie's struggle in an abusive relationship and is told, not only from her point of view but from many others -- all sharply delineated charcters. Creek has garnered many well-deserved accolades since it was published last year. Read it for the strong female characters and the satisfying ending.
Amy Willoughby Burle's The Lemonade Year is the story of Nina, who has a bad habit of making lemons out of lemonade. She also talks to an invisible chorus of Facebook friends who LIKE or comment or her various actions. Her marriage is failing, her sister Lola (my favorite character)has a brain injury that makes her memory unreliable, her brother Ray is an unhappy enigma, and there's a secret that needs to be addressed. And there's a younger man . . . This is a good read -- a feel-good novel about second chances and redemption.
Lee Zacharias leads a non-fiction workshop at Wildacres and The Only Sounds We Make -- a collection of essays -- has caused me to revise my opinion (based on some tedious reading in high school) of the essay form. Lee addresses
various subjects -- photography, the Grand Canyon, buzzards, the nature of light, and other diverse topics, all the while interweaving personal matters -- her father's suicide, her difficult mother -- to form a sort of memoir told slantwise.
The writing is crystalline clear and intensely beautiful . And though I finished the book a week ago, I want to read it again.
Tommy Hays leads a novel workshop at Wildacres and is also the director of the Great Smokies Writing Program. I've read and talked about some of his other novels (What I Came to Tell You, The Pleasure Was Mine) but was interested to see what his first effort was like. Sam's Crossing, which came out in 1992, is the story of a young unmarried couple in Atlanta. She wants a baby; he can't make up his mind. Missed opportunities, an alluring redhead who keeps turning up unexpectedly, and a near tragedy eventually bring matters to a head. Tommy's gentle humor and easy writing style make this one a pleasure to read.