Saturday, October 19, 2013

Guests on Earth

A new Lee Smith book is a must-have for me. And this one, most of which is set in Asheville, was a particular treat. It's the story of 13 year old Evalina Toussaint, a resident of Highland Hospital, a very special and advanced  institution in Asheville for mental patients of all sorts.

Evalina is fictional but Highland Hospital is a real place. Scott Fitzgerald's troubled wife Zelda was a patient there, on and off, for many years. 

Evalina is intrigued by the enigmatic Zelda and their paths intersect often. Smith has done a wonderful job of blending the known facts about Zelda into her fictional account of Evalina -- who is a fascinating character in her own right.  

The book presents a close look at Asheville in  the Forties and at the mental health care of the time .Zelda perished in a fire at Highland Hospital. The cause of the fire was never determined but Smith weaves into her plot a plausible culprit. 

But, as always, it's Lee Smith's characters we fall in love with. Evalina speaks with a voice as clear and true as that of Ivy Rowe -- the beloved protagonist of Smith's Fair and Tender Ladies.  (And if you haven't read that one, you have a real treat ahead.)

Go to Lee's website for a lot more about the book and how she came to write it -- a compelling story in itself. There's also a video interview with the author -- who is a delight to listen to!
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Ms. A said...

Sounds very interesting and intriguing, especially with real places and people woven in.

Brian Miller said...

well you've given it a pretty high recommendation...and i dont know that i have ever read anything by them....

Barbara Rogers said...

I am thrilled to hear about a new Lee Smith novel...and of course will learn more about my nearby city of Asheville! Thanks. To Malaprops Bookstore I go!

NCmountainwoman said...

My husband worked at Highland Hospital the summer after high school in 1963. They still talked about Zelda Fitzgerald as if it were months since the fire rather than decades.

I have loved all of Lee Smith's books and this one is no exception. So interesting I went through it in two days.