Tuesday, December 26, 2006

the day after ... and books

Our Christmas was quiet and sweet this year, I think because we kept it simple and I did a good job not taking on more than I could manage. Having the horses has made that job easier: the daily barn routine is unceasing, chores that can't be put off. Yesterday it rained heavily here, and for most of the day the horses were inside. There was something especially sweet about our regular walks to the barn to keep them supplied with hay and water as the day unfolded.

Two books have shepherded me through this holiday and I'd like to talk about them here.

Dot Jackson's Refuge was published this year by North Carolina's Novello Festival Press, "the nation's only public library-sponsored literary publisher. An imprint of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, NFP seeks to enhance awareness of the literary arts and expand opportunities for readers and writers from within our community and beyond it."

I was in Southern Pines doing a feed store run when Dot Jackson was interviewed on NPR. By the time I listened to the interview and the excerpt she read on the air, I turned the car around and headed directly to the Country Bookshop to buy a copy.

Refuge is the story of Mary Seneca Steele, a Charleston woman who flees an unhappy marriage with her two children to find grace and beauty in a mountain cove. Embraced by her father's family, she also finds a fierce and once-in-a-lifetime love with her cousin, Ben Aaron Steele.

The novel is beautifully written, beautifully paced, and offers characters so well-drawn I feel as if they are distant relatives of my own. I haven't yet put the book on a shelf - not quite ready to have it out of arm's reach.

If you like literary fiction, lyrical language, and a wonderful story, support both Ms. Jackson and Novello Festival Press and go buy this book. I love it that Novello is bringing books like this into the world.

The second book needs no introduction. Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons is on the New York Times Bestseller list and has had a tremendous amount of fanfare the past few months.

I loved Cold Mountain and have waited patiently for Frazier's new novel. I bought it the day it came out and hoarded it like a rare bottle of wine until Christmas eve. I admit that I am still reading, and not very far into the book at this writing. But I'm doing the thing I do with books I end up loving -- only allowing myself to read a few pages at a time in order to savor every word and image.

This book is lighter than Cold Mountain but every bit as well written. It makes me want to go on a week-long writing retreat to work on my own books. I highly recommend it.

One of my resolutions for 2007 is to get contracts on my three novels. Another is to get the word out about novels I read and love - the ones that engage and inspire me. I especially want to support "new" writers by getting out to the local bookstores to buy books in hardcover, early on, and make a point to tell folks about the books that move me.

Help me do this by making your own recommendations in comments here, or emailing about books you come across and love.


Joni said...

Savoring books. I do that myself. How wonderful. I plan to see about getting both the books you recommend. Thanks for that, and Merry Christmas.

I look forward to getting together sometime next month when thing settle a bit. Definitely.

billie said...

Thanks, Joni... :)

Journey well into the new year!


Joseph Gallo said...

I got Thirteen Moons too, but traded one of them for a morning sun, which leaves me, if math serves, about a dozen or so moons left. ;-)

Got it for my birthday in November. :-)

billie said...


That is my kind of math problem. :)


shara said...

Billie, both the books sound good. I honestly can't remember the last time I sat down to read a novel, and I do miss it, I used to have a few on the go all the time. I seem to go in spurts like that, and lately the only reading has been art-related. But Refuge, oh that sounds good.

billie said...

Hi, Bluesmama,

Thanks for visiting - I have been getting daily hits of inspiration from your lovely blog.

Refuge is a wonderful novel.

I'm still going a page or two at a time in Thirteen Moons. I love his language and rhythm, and can't bear to rush through it.

A few days ago one of his passages brought me to a standstill. I kept closing the book and coming back to it again and again. Just that one passage has catapulted my writing this week, which had come to a slow ebb in all the holiday hurrah.

Would love to hear some of your art book titles!