Literary Rain

April showers bring an abundance of new releases, many of them with North Carolina ties


Compiled by Brian Lampkin

April of 2018 brings us more new titles than any month in the four-plus years of Scuppernong Books’s existence. The big publishing news will certainly center on former FBI Director James Comey’s tell-all (or tell-some), A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership (Flatiron Books, $29.99, which publishes on April 17. But new books by major authors will also come to light. Time and space permit only a mention of books by Rick Bragg (The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table), Barbara Ehrenreich (Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer), Carl Hiaasen (Assume the Worst: The Graduation Speech You’ll Never Hear), Meg Wolitzer (The Female Persuasion), and Lorrie Moore (See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary).

Let’s focus here on books with a connection to North Carolina. On April 3, Ecco Press presents Varina, by Charles Frazier ($27.99). In this powerful new novel, Frazier returns to Cold Mountain and the chaos and devastation of the Civil War. Her marriage prospects limited, teenage Varina Howell agrees to wed the much older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects the secure life of a Mississippi landowner. Davis instead pursues politics and is eventually appointed president of the Confederacy, placing Varina at the white-hot center of one of the darkest moments in American history — culpable regardless of her intentions.

April 3: Women in Sunlight, by Frances Mayes (Crown, $27) Hillsborough resident and frequent Greensboro visitor, Mayes’s Women in Sunlight is the story of four American strangers who bond in Italy and change their lives over the course of an exceptional year. “The writing is gorgeous, the structure grand and formidable, just like the architecture she writes about so well. I feel like I have lived in Italy. But most of all, I feel like these women — and their men, and children — are still walking around in my mind.” —  Lee Smith.

April 10: North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail, by Scott Jurek (Little Brown & Co., $28). Scott Jurek is one of the world’s best-known ultrarunners. But after two decades of racing, Jurek felt an urgent need for further self-discovery. He embarked on a new challenge: breaking the speed record for the Appalachian Trail. North is the story of the 2,189-mile journey that nearly shattered him.

April 10: The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience, by Jennifer Pharr Davis (Viking, $27). Asheville resident Jennifer Pharr Davis, a previous record holder of the FKT (fastest known time) on the Appalachian Trail, reveals the secrets and habits behind endurance. Davis takes readers along as she trains and sets her record, analyzing and trail-testing the theories and methods espoused by her star-studded roster of mentors.

April 10: Blood Moon: An American Epic of War and Splendor in the Cherokee Nation, by John Sedgwick (Simon & Schuster, $30). In this epic saga, John Sedgwick brings to life an untold chapter of American history through the relationship between one chief called The Ridge, a fearsome warrior who spoke no English but whose exploits on the battlefield were legendary, and John Ross, who was the Cherokees’ primary chief for nearly 40 years, yet displayed the Scottish side of his mixed-blood heritage and spoke not a word of Cherokee. “The story of the Trail of Tears, and of its aftermath in Arkansas and Oklahoma, has never been told with more passion or finesse. Parts of it read like a nonfiction True Grit,” writes Ian Frazier, author of On the Rez.

April 10: Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice, by Rebecca Todd Peters (Beacon Press, $27.95). “Instead of the polarizing and a historical Christian perspective that you have come to expect on this topic, be prepared to read something that makes you think through a deeply nuanced and unflinchingly personal lens about abortion, motherhood and justice,” writes Traci C. West, author of Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Women’s Lives Matter. A Greensboro local and Elon professor, Rebecca Peters will be featured at the Greensboro Bound Literary Festival, May 18–20.

Of course, April is also National Poetry Month, so let’s mention these important new releases in poetry:
April 3: Wade in the Water: Poems, by Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf, $24).  Wade in the Water is a potent and luminous book by one of America’s essential poets.
April 10: For Every One, by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum, $14.99). This stirring and inspirational poem is National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds’s rallying cry to the dreamers of the world.
April 17: Brown: Poems, by Kevin Young (Knopf, $27). Brown speaks to the way personal experience is shaped by culture, while culture is forever affected by the personal.  

Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.

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