Friday, February 25, 2011

Ellen Meeropol

Ellen Meeropol holds an MFA in creative writing from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine. Her stories have appeared in The Drum, Bridges, Portland Magazine, Pedestal, Patchwork Journal, and The Women’s Times.

House Arrest, her first novel, is out this month.

A few weeks ago I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I work part-time at an independent bookstore and serve on their First Edition Club selection committee. This means we read ARC’s (advance readers copies) several months before publication. I just finished Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder and Touch by Alexi Zentner.

State of Wonder opens when a vague airmail letter informs pharmaceutical researcher Marina Singh that her friend and co-worker Anders Eckman died deep in the Amazon jungle where he was investigating a research project funded by the company employing them both. Marina is sent to find out exactly what happened to Eckman, to retrieve his body, and to ferret out the progress of the research led by her former medical school teacher, the brilliant and evasive Annick Swenson. A complicated mixture of dramatic plot involving killer anacondas and cannibal tribes, amazingly tactile and rich descriptions of the jungle, and thoughtful contemplation of the ethics of pharmaceutical development, and the lifelong effect a teacher can have on her students make this another first-rate read from a veteran author Ann Patchett.

Touch, a debut novel from Canadian-American writer Alexi Zentner, is also extraordinarily strong in setting, in this case a small village named Sawgamet in northern British Columbia. Stephen is an Anglican priest returning to visit his dying mother in the wilderness village settled by his grandfather Jeannot. Rich details of the rough town, the wild forest and terrifying weather, and the dangerous logging life are combined with a multi-generation love story. The novel shifts back and forth between Jeannot’s memories, Stephen’s boyhood, and his return to bury his mother and take over his stepfather’s church. It shifts back and forth as well between the boom to bust history of the town and Jeannot’s evocation of the wood witches and forest spirits. This is a haunting and gloriously satisfying read.
Visit Ellen Meeropol's website and blog.

See Meeropol's list of five political novels to change the world.

--Marshal Zeringue