Now that daylight lasts well into the evening, it’s as if the days are begging you to find a cool spot on the porch and catch up with your summer girls, your friends for a lifetime — whether from life or literature. Memorable female characters abound in this month’s collection of Lucky Stars e-books. Take advantage of the season with $2.99 e-books from Lee Smith, Jill McCorkle, Clyde Edgerton and more!
The Last Girls by Lee Smith: On a beautiful June day in 1965, a dozen girls-classmates at a picturesque Blue Ridge women’s college-launched their homemade raft (inspired by Huck Finn’s) on a trip down the Mississippi. It’s Girls A-Go-Go Down the Mississippi read the headline in the Paducah, Kentucky, paper. Thirty-five years later, four of those “girls” reunite to cruise the river again. This time it’s on the luxury steamboat, The Belle of Natchez, and there’s no publicity. This time, when they reach New Orleans, they’ll give the river the ashes of a fifth rafter-beautiful Margaret (“Baby”) Ballou. Revered for her powerful female characters, here Lee Smith tells a brilliantly authoritative story of how college pals who grew up in an era when they were still called “girls” have negotiated life as “women.” Harriet Holding is a hesitant teacher who has never married (she can’t explain why, even to herself). Courtney Gray struggles to step away from her Southern Living-style life. Catherine Wilson, a sculptor, is suffocating in her happy third marriage. Anna Todd is a world-famous romance novelist escaping her own tragedies through her fiction. And finally there is Baby, the girl they come to bury-along with their memories of her rebellions and betrayals. THE LAST GIRLS is wonderful reading. It’s also wonderfully revealing of women’s lives-of the idea of romance, of the relevance of past to present, of memory and desire.
You can buy The Last Girls e-book for $2.99 throughout July. The e-book includes a free preview of Smith’s novel Guests on Earth.
Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence by David Samuel Levinson: Catherine Strayed is living a quiet, un remarkable life in a secluded college town following the mysterious death of her husband, a promising writer whose death may have been an accident, a suicide, or perhaps even a murder. When her former mentor (and onetime lover)—a powerful critic who singlehandedly destroyed her late husband’s chance for success—takes a teaching job at the college, Catherine’s world threatens to collapse. For with him has come his latest protégé, an exotic young woman named Antonia Lively. Antonia’s debut novel has become a literary sensation—but it is, in fact, an almost factual retelling of a terrible crime that she relates without any concern for the impact its publication will have on the lives of those involved.
As Antonia insinuates herself into Catherine’s life, mysterious and frightening things start to happen, because unbeknownst to Catherine, the younger woman intends to plunder her own dark, regrettable past—and the unsolved death of her husband—for her next literary triumph.
Provocative and cunning, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence asserts that fiction is never truly fictional and asks, What does stealing another’s life do to your soul? Levinson spins a tale of surprises, peeling back one revelation only to find another in this tightly wrought, wickedly cynical look at the worlds of academia, publishing, and celebrity.
Ferris Beach by Jill McCorkle: Ferris Beach is a place where excitement and magic coexist. Or so Mary Katherine “Katie” Burns, the only child of middle-aged Fred and Cleva Burns, believes. Shy and self-conscious, she daydreams about Ferris Beach, where her beautiful cousin, Angela, leads a romantic, mysterious life.
It is the early 1970s, and when the land across the road from the Burns’s historic house is sold to developers, Misty Rhodes—also from Ferris Beach—and her flamboyant parents move into the nearest newly built split-level. In contrast to Katie’s composed, reserved, practical mother, Misty and her mother are everything Katie wants to be: daring, outrageous, fun. The two girls become inseparable, sharing every secret, every dream—until one fateful Fourth of July, when their lives change in a way they could never have imagined.
In this classic McCorkle novel, the author’s shrewd grasp of human nature creates characters that resonate with truth and emotion, and a story perfect for mothers and daughters to share and cherish.
The Last Bite by Nancy Verde Barr: After ending a bad relationship, Casey Costello, an executive chef at a morning television show, swears off men. Who has the time anyway? She’s busy overseeing a rambunctious food-prep crew in a kitchen the size of a closet; trying to please high-maintenance celebrity guest chefs; and dealing with her large extended Italian American family, who believe that the solutions to life’s problems involve food. And in the midst of her high-energy, stress-inducing career—punctuated by a steady stream of parties and restaurant openings that must not be missed—she’s trying to uncover why Sally Woods, a grand old dame of the culinary world and regular on the television show, is suddenly ready to jump ship and find a new station and a new executive chef. When Danny O’Shea, a handsome chef from one of New York’s hottest new restaurants, makes a guest appearance on the show, Casey smells trouble. But feelings ignite faster than a flambé dessert, especially when Danny whips up a few surprises during a television shoot in Italy. Narrated in Casey’s smart and refreshingly disarming voice, Last Bite is an irresistible culinary caper, with characters whose appetites are as big as their personalities.
Lunch at the Piccadilly by Clyde Edgerton: In his eighth deliciously funny novel, Clyde Edgerton introduces us to the irrepressible Lil Olive, who’s recently arrived at the Rosehaven Convalescence Center to recuperate from a bad fall. Lil longs to be back in her own apartment, and since her driver’s license doesn’t expire until her ninety-seventh birthday, she also longs to get back behind the wheel of her sporty ’89 Olds. To pass the time until independence, Lil strikes up some new friendships. Mrs. Maudie Lowe and Mrs. Beatrice Satterwhite, who are laying bets on whether Clara Cochran’s glass eye comes out at night. And L. Ray Flowers, the freelance evangelical preacher with fancy white hair who sings his sermons, strums a mean guitar, and aspires to an even higher calling. Keeping a watchful eye on them all is Carl, Lil’s middle-aged bachelor nephew with a heart of gold and the patience of a saint. But soon Rosehaven is turned upside down and the outcome is anyone’s guess. Lil and the girls steal a car and hit the highway. L. Ray’s vision of a national movement to unite churches and nursing homes (Nurches of America) is embraced by the residents. And then there’s Darla Avery’s dirty little secret, which could spell the end for the visionary preacher.Edgerton looks at the challenges of aging with sympathy, sensitivity, and his trademark sense of humor. Like the bestseller Walking Across Egypt, this is vintage Edgerton: wise, wistful, and laugh-out-loud funny.
Swim to Me by Betsy Carter: It’s a fresh start for Delores Walker when she boards a Greyhound bus bound for Florida. Leaving the Bronx far behind, she’s headed for sunny Weeki Wachee Springs, frayed roadside attraction in danger of becoming obsolete with the opening of Walt Disney’s latest creation, only miles up the road. Always more suited for a life underwater, Delores joins a group of other aquatic hopefuls in this City of Live Mermaids, where she discovers a world of sequined tails and amphibious theme shows that even Disney couldn’t dream up. It’s in this fantastic place of make-believe and reinvention that Delores Walker becomes Delores Taurus, Florida’s most unlikely celebrity. Bringing together an eccentric assortment of outcasts, poseurs, and underdogs, this wise and poignant novel conjures up a time in America when anything was possible, especially in the Sunshine State. A story of family, chasing dreams and finding your way, Swim To Me will have you believing the impossible—even in mermaids from the Bronx.
Dorothy on the Rocks by Barbara Suter: In Maggie Barlow’s world, reality is overrated. So what if her singing career has hit a sour note or she’s no longer the ingénue that she used to be? So what if she drinks and smokes a bit too much or likes to chat with a fairy godperson who appears to her from time to time? She’s the queen of denial and an actress to boot—she can just take on the role of someone she likes better than her sorry self. Regrettably, that role is currently Dorothy in the Little Britches Theater Company’s production of The Wizard of Oz.
Dorothy on the Rocks is the story of a funny, lovable, totally self-destructive woman who, after a night of one-drink-too-many, wakes up with a strange man in her bed: confident, handsome, sexy, twenty-eight-year-old Jack. What happens next is what makes Barbara Suter’s coming-of-middle-age tale so much fun. For when the make-believe is finally stripped away, our hurt, lonely, and very afraid heroine finally takes center stage and finds herself starring in a totally improbable love story. It just might be the role of a lifetime.