The Girl from Charnelle: A Novel

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9780060829650: The Girl from Charnelle: A Novel

It's 1960 in the Panhandle town of Charnelle, Texas -- a year and a half since sixteen-year-old Laura Tate's mother boarded a bus and mysteriously disappeared. Assuming responsibility for the Tate household, Laura cares for her father and three brothers and outwardly maintains a sense of calm. But her balance is upset and the repercussions of her family's struggles are revealed when a chance encounter with a married man leads Laura into a complicated relationship for which she is unprepared.

As Kennedy battles Nixon for the White House, Laura must navigate complex emotional terrain and choose whether she, too, will flee Charnelle. Dramatizing the tension between desire and familial responsibility, The Girl from Charnelle delivers a heartfelt portrait of a young woman's reckoning with the paradoxes of love. Eloquent, tender, and heart-wrenching, K. L. Cook's unforgettable debut novel marks the arrival of a significant new voice in American fiction.

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About the Author:

K. L. Cook won the inaugural Prairie Schooner Book Prize for his collection of linked stories, Last Call. His stories and essays have appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including Poets & Writers, Threepenny Review, Shenandoah, Witness, and American Short Fiction. He has won an Arizona Commission on the Arts fellowship for fiction, the grand prize in the Santa Fe Writers' Project Literary Arts Series, and residency fellowships to the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center. He lives in Arizona and teaches at Prescott College and Spalding University's MFA Program in Writing.

From Publishers Weekly:

For his first novel, Cook revisits the Tate family of Charnelle, Tex., a panhandle town, from his collection of linked short stories, Last Call. The year is 1960, and Laura Tate, just 16, has kept house for her three brothers and father ever since her momma walked out the year before. When a married man—John Letig, her father's workmate from Charnelle Steel & Construction—kisses her on New Year's Eve, Laura, long uninterested in the show-off antics of her pimple-faced peers, later catches herself daydreaming. After much indecision, they consummate their flirtation. The author closely observes the affair: the physical pain of Laura's sexual initiation, the power shift between them once Laura understands her allure, the irresistible pull of desire, despite their foundering relationship. Readers of Last Call will supply details of setting, local mores and secondary characters in this novel. But those coming to Cook's Charnelle for the first time will find some of the context for the affair only sketched in—especially the potentially rich psychological undercurrent of a family abandoned by its wife and mother. Still, the climactic confrontation is a welcome narrative infusion. (Apr.)
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