Guests on Earth (Smith)

Lee Smith. Guests on Earth: A Novel. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books, 2013. 368 pages. Hardback with dust jacket. $25.95.

At the beginning of this resonant and highly atmospheric novel, the narrator introduces herself as a small, bookish woman who lives in a half-basement apartment in the French Quarter, a humble piano accompanist with a grand story to tell: “My name is Evalina Toussaint, a romantic name, is it not?” She promises to deliver her own impressions of the bizarre events leading up to the mysterious fire of 1948 at Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, that killed nine female mental patients, including Zelda Fitzgerald.

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Susan Tekulve is the author of In the Garden of Stone, winner of the 2012 South Carolina First Novel Award and a 2013 SIBA “Okra Award.” She has also published three short story collections: Savage Pilgrims, Wash Day and My Mother’s War Stories. Her stories and essays have appeared in Shenandoah, The Georgia Review, New Letters, Best New Writing 2007, The Indiana Review, Denver Quarterly, Puerto del Sol, Prairie Schooner, North Dakota Quarterly, Connecticut Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, Crab Orchard Review, The Literary Review, Webdelsol, Black Warrior Review, and The Kansas City Star. She has been awarded a Sewanee Writers’ Conference Scholarship and a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Scholarship. An Associate Professor of English, she teaches in the BFA and MFA in creative writing programs at Converse College.

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