Are you missing the right gifts for some important people on your shopping list?
There is help from some of the best and most popular North Carolina-connected storytellers, whose new books might be lifesavers for you. And your gift recipient can watch the author talk about the book in the next few weeks on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. Viewers with access to UNC-TV’s digital channel UNC-MX can preview the program on the preceding Friday at 9 p.m.
Here are a few suggestions:
Some are saying that Lee Smith’s new novel, Guests on Earth, is her best ever. The setting is Asheville’s Highland Hospital leading up to the great fire of 1948 that took the lives of nine patients, including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda. Through her central character, Evalina Toussaint, an orphan from New Orleans, Smith shows the complex mixture of joy and despair, accomplishment and failure, extraordinary talent and disruption that make up the experience of those affected by mental illness. (Jan. 3, 5, 9)
Elizabeth Spencer, best known for her classic The Light in the Piazza, published her first book, Fire in the Morning, in 1948, more than 65 years ago. Her latest book of stories, Starting Over, shows a spirit that is totally in touch with modern times and the challenges and ironies of those who live in them. (Jan. 10, 12, 16)
When best-selling mystery writer Jeffery Deaver’s new book, The October List, begins, a young woman’s child has been kidnapped. For ransom, the kidnapper demands a half million dollars and a copy of a document called the October List. A fast-moving, entertaining, tricky tale follows. But Deaver’s most unusual trick is the timing. The October List begins at Chapter 35 and then goes backwards in time to an unexpected conclusion in Chapter One. (Jan. 17, 19, 23)
Jason Mott sets his debut novel, The Returned, in the fictional town of Arcadia in Columbus County near Wilmington, where he grew up and still lives. One reason to read The Returned is because it is the basis of an ABC series called “Resurrection,” which premieres Sunday, March 9, at 9 p.m. A better reason is Mott’s compelling storytelling. In the new book, Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s only child drowned on his eighth birthday about 50 years ago. The parents are now in their 70s, and their son, still eight years old, reappears. (Jan. 24, 26, 30)
Rocky Mount native Allan Gurganus’s name will always be associated with his blockbuster, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. His latest, Local Souls, a collection of three novellas, takes us back to the fictional eastern North Carolina town of Falls, where “Widow” and many of his earlier short stories were set. Praising the new book, John Irving, author of The World According to Garp, writes, “Gurganus’s storytelling is flawless… Each novella delivers an ending of true force.” Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto, writes, “This book underscores what we have long known – Gurganus stands among the best writers of our time.” (Jan. 31, Feb. 2, 6)
N.C. State professor Wilton Barnhardt’s Lookaway, Lookaway, follows the decline of a contemporary, socially prominent Charlotte couple and their four children. Barnhardt follows family members to country clubs, museums, mansions, college fraternity and sorority rush parties and aftermaths, debutante balls, retirement homes, real estate developments, gay pickup sites, homes for unwed mothers, abortion sites, Civil War reenactments, and political campaigns. Barnhardt’s inspired fiction serves up some earthshaking truths about life in North Carolina’s fast lanes. (Feb. 7, 9, 13)
Pat Conroy’s latest book, The Death of Santini, a memoir about his family and his father’s death, covers much of the same ground as his best-selling novel The Great Santini, which propelled Conroy to fame and exposed his father’s brutal approach to parenthood. How Conroy, his father, his mother, and the rest of his family built new relationships as death approached is an amazing story. (Feb. 14, 16, 20)