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Five childhood friends with big plans face the changing realities of life in Tennessee in the 1960s

As Sally and Emily Prince and Jed, Raymond, and Donny Tatro sit under their beloved Castle Tree in rural, segregated Tennessee, they dream big dreams. But the journey from these dreams to reality is a long one. As they move into their teens, each faces challenges they could never have imagined. Sally and Jed may take a traditional route as head cheerleader and football captain in their sports-frenzied town, but can their love survive some unexpected bumps in the road? Emily and Raymond, always the outsiders, move north during the civil rights movement and must consider their connection to Southern roots and traditional gender roles. And Donny, as an African-American teen, will endure the effects of generations of discrimination and class boundaries as he tries to live out his dreams in their small factory town. Along the way, the five will fall in love, change one another’s lives, grow apart, and come together again.

In this sweeping novel, Alther brings to life characters both tragic and comic as they live through the changing American socio-economic landscape of the 1950s and ’60s.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Lisa Alther, including rare photos from the author’s personal collection.

ABOUT Lisa Alther

  • BIOGRAPHY

    For novelist Lisa Alther, as for so many of her fellow Southerners, the past is ever present, particularly in places like Kingsport, Tennessee, the small town where she was born in 1944. One of five children, Alther grew up in a region of small farms and factories, surrounded by a close-knit Appalachian community. Her father was a second-generation town doctor, and her mother was a former English teacher from upstate New York. Another strong presence in her upbringing was her paternal grandmother, the founder of the Virginia Club and a pillar of the Southern way of life. Lisa attended public schools in Kingsport, taking her place in the marching band after an unsuccessful brush with flag swinging, living the life of a typical 1950s teen.

    Alther left Tennessee to attend Wellesley College and then went to New York after graduation in 1966 to work in book publishing at Atheneum. She moved to Vermont in 1968 to raise her daughter. In the years that followed, Alther began writing journalism. But, inspired by the great Southern women writers and storytellers, she also worked on novels and short stories. After many rejections, her first novel, Kinflicks, was published in 1976 to critical praise and became a bestseller.

    Kinflicks was the first of six bestselling novels.  The others were Original Sins (1980), Other Women (1984), Bedrock (1990), Birdman and the Dancer (1993), and Five Minutes in Heaven (1995). Alther also taught Southern fiction at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, and at East Tennessee State University.  She has produced one work of nonfiction, Kinfolks: Falling Off the Family Tree. For Kinfolks (2007), she researched her family’s possible connection to the Melungeon people, a little-known population in eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia whose ethnic origins are unclear but may possibly be traced to Portuguese, Spanish, African, and Turkish settlers, soldiers, and sailors who may have integrated with Native American tribes in the seventeenth century.

    Alther has written novels set in both the South and in her adopted northern homeland. They feature a comic wit that addresses human foibles as gracefully as her more serious prose tackles weightier topics such as racism, feminism, domestic abuse, politics, and sexuality. Her work aims “to portray the human reality behind the cultural stereotypes, particularly those regarding women.”

    Having lived in London and Paris, Alther now divides her time among Tennessee, Vermont, and New York City.

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