Mississippi Books and Writers

March 2005

Note: Prices listed below reflect the publisher's suggested list price. They are subject to change without notice.

Prisoners of War

By Steve Yarbrough

Vintage (Paperback, $13.95, ISBN: 1400030625)

Publication date: March 2005

Description from Publishers Weekly:

Set in the same small Mississippi town as Yarbrough’s critically acclaimed Visible Spirits, this complex WWII-era novel explores questions of morality and social inequity in the rural South when a group of German POWs are quartered at a local camp and sent to work as day laborers on nearby farms. The novel opens with the uncomfortable friendship between young Dan Timms, who drives one of his enterprising Uncle Alvin’s “rolling stores” (old school buses boasting all the necessities of country life: sodas, coal-oil lamps, radios), and L.C. Stevens, the black employee who drives the other. While L.C. vainly struggles to make his work partner see the “parallel universe” in which black Americans are trapped, Dan yearns to join the army and escape the fresh memory of his father’s recent suicide and his suspicions about his mother’s past. But Dan’s friend Marty Stark shows him another side of war when he returns damaged and changed from the German theater and is reassigned to help guard the town’s German POWs. The story shifts subtly when a Polish prisoner informs Dan of an escape planned by several other prisoners, setting in motion a chain of events that eventually brings Marty’s troubled war memories to the surface. Meanwhile, L.C. suffers a beating by an older, powerful white man who, after losing his own son in the war, uses his influence to ensure that the young black man is drafted. The multiple subplots slow the novel’s pace, but Yarbrough’s warm, measured voice, clean prose and rich character studies make this an unusually tender and accomplished study of the reverberations of war on the home front.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Writing Life

By Ellen Gilchrist

University Press of Mississippi (Hardcover, $28.00, ISBN: 1578067391)

Publication date: March 2005

Description from Publishers Weekly:

In this collection of wry and poised autobiographical essays, most previously unpublished, National Book Award winner Gilchrist (Victory over Japan, etc.) is disarmingly direct in evoking herself as a trapped young wife and mother who returned to college, studied under Eudora Welty and became involved in the New Stage Theatre in Jackson, Miss., during the civil rights era, a turning point in her eventual “escape from the bourgeoisie.” She writes frankly and without self-loathing about overcoming alcoholism, and reflects on the powerful influence of her disciplined, sporty father, drawing analogies between tennis and writing, coaching and teaching. She tells of writing her first published book of stories, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, in three months and of how its publication coincided with the birth of her first grandchild. Affording insights into her writing process, including the necessary evil of letting down friends and family in order to put writing first, Gilchrist’s droll, optimistic and seasoned voice is irresistible. A final series of pithy essays focuses on her adaptation to academia late in life; she enthralls with witty, tender observations of her writing students’ progress. Gilchrist’s love of life, her tireless work ethic and her self-assured sense of fun and folly shine in this vital and inspiring collection.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Fiction of Ellen Gilchrist: An Appreciation

By Brad Hooper

Praeger Publishers (Hardcover, $39.95, ISBN: 0275985938)

Publication date: March 2005


Winner of the National Book Award for her short story collection Victory Over Japan, Ellen Gilchrist has entertained audiences with her vivid fictional portraits of strong women, eccentric lives, and the difficulties of love and life. Known both for her short fiction and her novels, Gilchrist has been awarded several honors throughout her career, and her work continues to receive both critical and popular acclaim. This book examines her fiction, book by book, and offers an appreciation of her craft through a careful analysis of the stories themselves, their critical reception, and their lasting effect on the reader. Hooper offers the first complete evaluation of Gilchrist's entire fiction oeuvre. Author of such works as In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, The Annunciation, I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting with My Daddy, and several other novels and collections of short stories, Ellen Gilchrist has transcended the bounds of Southern writing, appealing to audiences in all corners of the nation. Here, Hooper celebrates her fiction, focusing on the strong, feisty female characters that populate her works, exerting their will and independence regardless of traditional restraints on their activities. In addition, he pays special attention to her strengths and weaknesses as both a short fiction writer and a novelist, arguing that while her novels may entertain, her lasting contribution to American letters can more easily be found in her short fiction.

Hard Truth

By Nevada Barr

Putnam (Hardcover, $24.95, ISBN: 0399152415)

Publication date: March 2005

Description from Publishers Weekly :

In Barr’s taut 13th thriller to feature Anna Pigeon (after 2004’s High Country), the 50-ish National Park Service ranger leaves her new husband, Paul, back in Mississippi, to assume a new post in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, where she encounters a serial killer and a strong, determined woman, Heath Jarrod, much like herself. Heath, a former ice climber now confined to a wheelchair after a near-fatal fall, feels depressed, isolated and helpless. She’s camping in the national park with her physician, who’s also her aunt, when a pair of battered young girls, two of three missing from a nearby religious retreat, appear at the campsite. Heath and Anna at first dislike one another, but join forces to break the silence enforced by the retreat’s domineering head and discover why the youngsters vanished, who took them, where they were and what happened to the third girl. Barr skillfully weaves contemporary issues of parental responsibility, religious and political separatism, and sexual abuse into her harrowing story. She carefully sets the scene in the first part of the book, which builds to a spectacular climax that pits Anna against evil incarnate. Noted for her precise plotting and atmospheric descriptions of nature, Barr again proves her skill in putting believable characters in peril against a backdrop of breathtaking scenery.

—Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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