June 20, 2010

CHASING LILACS by Carla Stewart


That June, right after I finished sixth grade, Norm MacLemore's nephew came to Texas for a visit. Benny Ray Johnson brought home a new Edsel. And Mama tried to take her life for the first time.

This is the beginning of CHASING LILACS, a debut novel by CARLA STEWART. I just finished this last night, I'd read it in a day - couldn't put it down. This is just a powerfully well-written story - it pulled me in immediately. Who doesn't remember being twelve and experiencing the joys and sorrows of that time of life when you felt caught between being a kid and becoming an adult?

The story is set in 1958 Texas. It's not a time or place I've been, but the story paints a sweet picture of simple times past and is full of things I remember as a kid growing up. Carla does an amazing job of keeping the suspense and questions and anticipation mounting. Sweet and poignant with touches of humor. The prose is rhythmic and slightly literary with a lot of truth and wisdom. I loved this story!

Carla tackles a number of issues with grace and dignity, like mental illness and puberty. Though the story is told through the eyes of Sammie, a twelve year old girl, it doesn't feel juvenile at all. Sammie's view of her world is mature and yet realistic for a girl her age and I was drawn immediately to her. As she struggled with the need for answers and reassurance and just to have her normal mama back, Sammie had to come to grips with her needs, who she was, and eventually, when to take a stand for herself. I bonded with the character immediately. These aren't just a kid's struggles, but everyone's. Sammie is truly a hero in every sense. I know she inspired me in ways I never expected.

This story is very beautifully written. With a slightly literary feel and full of nostalgia, CL begins in a quiet sort of introspection and then unfolds smoothly, yet it constantly numbs you with anticipation.

I can't wait for Carla's second book, releasing next year. Keep your eyes open for it! For more information about Carla and her books, visit Carla's Writing Cafe.


Linda Glaz said...

Sounds wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing!



I've published five novels and 2 novellas (more about those on my website.) I've been writing all my life, but decided in 2007 to get serious about being published.

I love action movies and Jane Austen. (she’s dead, I know. I found that out when I tried to get her to endorse my novel)

They let me play Bass guitar and sing in a worship band.

I can produce 4 dozen homemade cinnamon rolls in a flash for a crowd of drooling young adults. Or publishing house editors.

I used to have a Harley. Now we have six (going on seven) grandkiddos. Decent trade, really.

I am a proud Grammy. Don't even think about taking candy from my babies.

I hate shopping (Yes, I'm aware that I'm a girl)

I've lived in Oregon all my life, spent time in Eugene (Go DUCKS!), Springfield, Reedsport, and Smith River. Which is not really a town, but a river, about 70 miles long, a tributary of the Umpqua River in southwest Oregon.

Although it's not a town, it is a community with a strong sense of pioneer history. It's cool to say you've lived there, especially if you lived there during the days when you had to take a boat to school. No joke! The old farmhouse my grandfather and my mother grew up in still stands, nestled into a narrow, pasture carpeted valley, complete with a swimmin' hole and its own 'crick'. It may turn up in one of my novels.

There's a rumor that my ancestors had a connection with the Mafia back in Sicily. I used to fantasize as a kid about a big black limo with tinted windows pulling up and whisking me away from school. Ahhh. So THAT'S why I'm having so much trouble conjugating my dangling participles now.

NOT RANDOM: I am challenged by the truth and amazed by the grace of God. And it's either in spite of or because of that grace that I hold a PhD in Learning Stuff the Hard Way.