Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dispatches from the Field: Joe Dives Beneath the Surface of This Debut Novel

Thirty years ago, Martin Owenby came to New York City with dreams of becoming a writer. Now his existence revolves around cheap Scotch and weekend flings with equally damaged men. When he learns that his older brother, Leon, has gone missing, he must return to the Owenby farm in Solace Fork, North Carolina, to assist in the search. But that means facing a past filled with regrets, the family that never understood him, the girl whose heart he broke, and the best friend who has faithfully kept the home fires burning. As the mystery surrounding Leon's disappearance deepens, so too does the weight of decades-long unresolved differences and unspoken feelings—forcing Martin to deal with the hardest lessons about home, duty, and love.

Read Newton's blog to learn where the story idea came from.

Joe says:

"Heather Newton's debut novel takes place in the mountains of North Carolina, between the 1950's and 1980's. At the surface it is the story of what happens to a family when one of their own goes missing. Luckily for the reader, this book is not only about the surface. The story is told from the points of view of several characters, and Newton is a master at teasing the story out slowly, deliciously. If one character could be called the main character, it is Martin Owenby, who left this mountain community for college and then New York City. He left town for the promise of better things: a writing career, the chance to be gay. He never intended to return. But things did not work out the way he had hoped: he spends his infrequent earnings mostly on booze and reluctantly returns home when his family needs his support while they search for their missing brother, Leon.

Told in the present (the late 1980's) and the past, Newton weaves a rather tight and intriguing story. There are twists and turns and surprising revelations, told in a way that reminded me of hearing a story around a campfire. Only we are privy to the storyteller's thoughts, as well. The story has an otherworldly current to it that took me by surprise. Often while reading a story told from multiple points of view, I find myself skimming one or another character's storylines, but here each voice is strong and unique and likable in their own ways. In the tale of the Owenby clan, Newton has created a hard-to-put-down, and equally hard-to-forget story."

You aren't getting enough Joe here on BTC? Then check out his blog From The City to the Country.

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