Saturday, June 9, 2012

Melanie Thorne

Melanie Thorne earned her MA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Davis, where she was awarded the Alva Englund Fellowship and the Maurice Prize in fiction. She was a resident at the Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat in 2011, and her work has appeared in various journals, including The Greenbelt Review and Global City Review.

Her new novel is Hand Me Down.

Recently I asked Thorne what she was reading.  Her reply:
I’m not writing right now, which means I’m reading a lot again and it’s glorious. Glorious! Is there anything better than enjoying the sun and a good book? There are so many books that have come out recently or are coming out soon that I’m excited about, it’s been hard to prioritize.

I just read Claire Bidwell Smith’s The Rules of Inheritance and loved it. I don’t often read memoirs and I was skeptical, especially since it sounded like a depressing story. But I love Claire’s writing and we share an editor, so I picked it up after hearing all the praise and couldn’t put it down. Literally. I tried; I had things to do. It was so good I read about eighty pages straight and was totally hooked. It’s the only memoir I’ve ever finished (though Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is on my TBR list so that will likely change soon).

The book is about only-child Claire, whose parents, both of them, are diagnosed with cancer when she is fourteen. Her mom dies when she’s eighteen, her dad when she’s twenty-five. The book is told in the framework of the five stages of grief, each stage getting three non-chronological chapters. The prose is beautiful, sparse, gripping. Claire weaves through time, both in the telling, which seamlessly shifts from past to present to future tense, and in the sequence of scenes that take place over almost twenty years of her life. The scenes slowly move more and more toward the future and acceptance, the final stage, and the happiness Claire ultimately finds. The ending is gorgeous and exactly what you want for the woman Claire grows into. It is sad in parts—I admit, I cried quite a bit—but it’s also about overcoming that sadness. I could gush for days about this book, I can’t stop thinking about it, but let me stop by saying I think the lessons about grief and love and self-love are applicable to anyone who has suffered any kind of loss or trauma. It’s really, really well done. Did I mention I loved it?

The other book I most recently finished is the newest Sookie Stackhouse novel, Deadlocked, by Charlaine Harris. I started reading this series six years ago and each May when the new one comes out, I get to spend a day happily engrossed in the fantasy world of vampires, fairies, were-creatures, and Sookie, the world’s friendliest telepathic waitress. Somewhere I saw reading Sookie’s voice compared to slipping into a warm bath, and after all these years it’s so true. These books are like a vacation for my brain, and I devour them, often in one sitting. I love supernatural stories and these have the added appeal of tongue-in-cheek campy fun. I’ll be sorry to see the series end next year.
Visit Melanie Thorne's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Hand Me Down.

--Marshal Zeringue