Thank you to Creative Writing at Austin Community College and judge Jim Sanderson for selecting The Good Echo as the winner of the 2018 Balcones Fiction Prize! I look forward to reading in Austin on February 19 with the Balcones Poetry Prize winner Margaree Little, whose book Rest is now at the top of my reading list, along with the books by the other fiction finalists, an incredibly compelling set of books.
One day, about a year ago, I visited the grave of Marceline Baldwin Jones, the wife of Jim Jones, in the Earlham Cemetery, and then I wrote an essay about Marceline and the questions that arise when I think about her. That essay, “Marceline Wanted a Bigger Adventure,” is now issue 26 of True Story, the adorable once monthly, zine-style offspring of Creative Nonfiction. You can read an excerpt, or purchase the whole essay here. I made a Spotify playlist to accompany the essay, too. (I think it’s a pretty great mix. )
JStor is such a fantastic resource for scholars and writers, a treasure trove of interesting, scholarly information, easily searchable and available digitally in full-text format. I recently discovered JStor Daily (“Where Daily News Meets its Scholarly Match”). The articles they post are peer reviewed, reliable, and in-depth, but even more, they’re interesting, providing history and context and building connections between contemporary humanist concerns and scholarship of the past. Being such a JStor fan, I was thrilled when Amy Shearn of JStor Daily invited me to take part in an interview about the research I conducted to write The Good Echo. You can read the interview here.
Winner of the Big Moose Prize, my debut novel, THE GOOD ECHO, will be published by Black Lawrence Press this November.
Set in the 1930s, and spanning the globe, THE GOOD ECHO is the story of a marriage between controversial nutritionist and dentist Clifford Bell and his quietly courageous wife Frances. After their young son dies from an infected root canal Clifford performs, Clifford and Frances seek to escape their grief through unconventional means, traveling from Ohio to Alaska to Sudan, to substantiate a theory of which Clifford’s colleagues are skeptical. Narrated in turn by Frances and Clifford, and by the ghost of their son Benjamin, The Good Echo is composed of postcards and bedtime stories, folktales and family legends, travel and research notes. The Good Echo celebrates the healing that can arise through sustained curiosity, and how our deepest sadness sometimes initiates the boldest adventures of our lives.
You can read an excerpt from the novel here, and you can order a copy here. If you are interested in an advanced review copy, or in adopting The Good Echo for a course, please get in touch with me or Black Lawrence Press.
PRAISE FOR THE GOOD ECHO
Crisp, incisive, and quiet as an Ohio winter, this is a story of loss rendered in research and tucked away in rabbits’ mouths. A beautiful debut.
Shena McAuliffe’s passionate devotion to scientific and historical inquiry amplifies and deepens the extravagant gifts of her playful imagination. With dazzling formal agility and rapturous attention to the pleasures of the senses, she delivers us to a world where memory is mutable and the dead speak, where it is possible to bear witness to other people’s secret fears and inchoate desires. The Good Echo shimmers with the radiance of a mother’s abiding love, a father’s healing mission, and a child’s joyful curiosity. Through the potent prismatic magic of storytelling, McAuliffe offers her readers grace beyond grief, a transcendent vision of the ways we might reinvent ourselves, transforming pain to purpose, surrendering to the blessings of our lives even as we navigate the paths of mourning.
—Melanie Rae Thon
From the first page of this novel, I was captivated. A boy, dead from an infected root canal performed by his father, says, “Death has made a storyteller of me.” When I read that, I put down the book, got coffee and a sandwich, and settled in for a day of enchantment. I was not disappointed.
What emerges is a story of love and loss, of how much we can ever know another, of blind spots, of intimacy, and the causes for and kinds of departures. The book has a magic all its own—the particular voice, humor, research, and medical history sustained me until that melancholy evening when I had to come to terms with knowing I would be reading the last sentence soon. A luminous, deeply moving debut: Shena McAuliffe is a rare talent. Sign me up for anything she writes.
“Harbingers make good stories,” we are told in Shena McAuliffe’s stunning debut novel, a young boy’s diseased tooth proving harbinger of a journey to the underworld and back, from Cleveland, Ohio to high in the Swiss Alps, from a Seminole village deep in the Everglades to Sleet Mute, Alaska, the Outer Hebrides, the Nile Delta, the Sudan, and, finally, home again to Ohio, every inch of the way traversed via the body’s darkest, most hidden places. The Good Echo is that rare thing, an encyclopedic novel by a woman; it’s the heart and not the brain, after all, according to the ancient Egyptians, that is the seat of the soul and of the intellect.
My essay “Pieta: Richmond, Indiana” is up on AGNI Online!