I had such a wonderful response to my Summer at Tiffany giveaway last year, that the amazing Jennifer Pooley of William Morrow/Harper Collins offered up another batch of books to give away. This time, I have ten copies of K.L. Cook's The Girl From Charnelle:
The rules to enter the contest are at the bottom of this post. This one looks like it will be another great read! A little heavier than Summer at Tiffany, but good for the soul...
Here's the synopsis:
It’s 1960 in the Panhandle town of Charnelle, Texas — a year and a half since sixteen-year-old Laura Tate’s mother boarded a bus and mysteriously disappeared. Assuming responsibility for the Tate household, Laura cares for her father and three brothers and outwardly maintains a sense of calm. But her balance is upset and the repercussions of her family’s struggles are revealed when a chance encounter with a married man leads Laura into a complicated relationship for which she is unprepared.
As Kennedy battles Nixon for the White House, Laura must navigate complex emotional terrain and choose whether she, too, will flee Charnelle. Dramatizing the tension between desire and familial responsibility, The Girl from Charnelle delivers a heartfelt portrait of a young woman’s reckoning with the paradoxes of love. Eloquent, tender, and heart-wrenching, K. L. Cook’s unforgettable debut novel marks the arrival of a significant new voice in American fiction.
And an excerpt:
"She opened the book and started rereading a story she liked by Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose writing she generally did not like. But she was fascinated by “Wakefield,” about a man who leaves his family, just disappears, but in reality moves only a couple of blocks away and spies on them for years, watches them as they recover from their grief, as their lives fold over the scar of his absence. The story reminded her of "Rip Van Winkle,” but it also, more importantly, reminded her of her mother, made her wonder if perhaps her mother had been lurking around Charnelle, watching them, spying on them. She wished on some level that it were true, though she knew that it wasn’t, that her mother had left for good, and they would never—no matter how many theories they devised—know what became of her.
Mr. Sparling had asked them to write an essay, detailing the various reasons that not just Wakefield but that other characters left their communities. When he said this, she could feel her classmates stealing covert glances at her, but she ignored them, no longer cared what they thought. She put her head down and wrote about Wakefield and then about Huck Finn, striking out for the new frontier, fleeing civilization. She wrote about Bartleby, so politely preferring not to, removing himself more and more from the world, until he at last died. She wrote a paragraph about Hester living on the outskirts of town, shunned and humiliated. But what she was really thinking about as she wrote was how Gloria had escaped Charnelle to be with Jerome, to start a new life in a different place, far from home. And how perhaps that’s what her mother had done as well. When she wrote the essay, she and John were about to strike out themselves, and she had imagined, though of course not written about, that journey for herself and John.
Rereading the story now, she thought about how she had finally left Charnelle after all, and not because she could no longer imagine living there, but because she felt that she no longer belonged there, that she had lost her privilege. She remembered reading Oedipus last year, how he had gouged out his eyes for what he’d unknowingly done and had asked for death but his brother-in-law had given him a punishment worse than death—a wandering exile. When she read it last year, she thought about her mother, wandering in exile, which sounded exotic, but now, the day after leaving the Letigs’ home, she realized that exile was a form of shame, and shame was what had made her ride so fast through the dark Charnelle streets, hoping she wouldn’t be seen. She was determined to disappear, just run away from them all, like her mother had done, convinced that it was better to remain a mystery, to say No and, if you could, begin your life over rather than remain in the place where you had caused so much grief.
Traveling on the bus, dozing, unsure which town she was in, she also felt as if leaving was a way of discovering her mother, felt in some ways that she was traveling down a path her mother had already laid for her, as if the very act of leaving might lead her to her mother’s doorstep in a strange city, in another world. A new world.
But now, not even seventy miles from home, lying in this dingy bed, she felt more confused than ever about her own motives, what a stranger she was even to herself. And she was afraid as well, and wondered what kind of timid traveler she would be—no longer welcome in Charnelle, but not welcome anyplace else. Perhaps that was what exile was and what she deserved.”
Now, here's how you enter the giveaway: Leave me a comment (by 12 noon Eastern Time on Monday, March 3, 2008) ON THIS POST describing how some piece of literature helped you cope or process an experience you were wading through. I'll draw ten random winners and post the winners on the evening of March 3rd (MAKE SURE YOU INCLUDE YOUR STATE). Unfortunately, with the cost of mailing these books out, I can only open this giveaway to readers in the U.S.
How did literature help me cope in the past??... I moved around quite a bit as a child. I went to three different elementary schools in 4th grade alone!! Books were my refuge and I kept a diary religiously. Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh was my favorite book. No matter where I went, Harriet was my friend. I haven't picked that book up in years. Maybe I'll read it right after The Girl From Charnelle....