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Phantom Limb is a wise and courageous memoir that moves between past and present, chronicling an adult daughter’s journey through the final years of her parents’ lives. A story of discovering love through adversity as well as an inquiry into contemporary neurology and spiritual life, Phantom Limb is a moving meditation on the struggle to make peace with physical and emotional ghosts of the past. Janet Sternburg write with such warmth and honesty that loss itself becomes luminous: “This is the grace of the last years, the children coming to understand the contradictions in their parents, not to reconcile them but encompass them in a larger love.”

“Janet Sternburg has found the perfect metaphor for the tragedy of pain and loss, the ultimate inevitabilities of life.” —Bill Moyers

“A phantom limb is flesh become memory… Sternburg uses the phenomenon as a metaphor for the loss of our loved ones, who remain intimately with us even after they’re gone.”  —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“[Sternburg is] every one of us who has cared for aging parents… She has faced the crucial questions: What do we owe to our parents? What do we owe to ourselves?” —The Orange County Register

“A mosaic of understanding, reconciliation, and ultimately acceptance.” —The Bloomsbury Review

“Sternburg is so skillful, so acute in her descriptions and so filled with a useful sense of the absurd that the painful becomes transformative.” —Jewish Exponent

“Sternburg’s prose is powered by imagistic accuracy and psychological immediacy—two horses that lesser writers let run wild. She holds their reins in a firm hand, and gently guides this book with intelligence and humility… This is a book for anyone not afraid to look.”  —Liana Holmberg, Manoa



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The Mantz Trilogy by Paul Corey

Three Miles Square

The first volume begins with the death and burial of Iowa farmer Chris Mantz in 1910. The widow, Bessie, is left with four children, Andrew, Verney, Wolmar, and the baby, Otto.

The Road Returns

The second volume covers the years 1917-1923, a period of prosperity and speculation followed by ruinous decline for Iowa farmers.

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The final volume, covering the 1920’s, finds Andrew dissatisfied on the farm, Wolmar successfully operating a garage, Verney and her husband living with Mrs. Mantz, and Otto at the University.

The Mantz Trilogy documents a time of great change in America. During this period, young people began to move away from farming as a life choice. The once rare automobile could be found—in almost every barn. The boom and bust of the economy as a result of the war and advances in automation forever changed our way of life. Yet, when we read the story of the Mantz family of almost a century ago, we can find many things to identify with—the nasty and manipulative neighbor who has his own sorrows, the joys and heartaches of raising children, the economic and political factors whose impact on our lives seem out of our control, right down to a drunk driving accident, an unplanned pregnancy, and even a suicide.


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This book explores what, arguably, everyone’s grandmother always knew, that when passionate knitters become one with the craft, amazing things can happen. In Zen and the Art of Knitting, Bernadette Murphy explores how knitting fits into the larger scheme of life itself as meditation, creative expression, a gift to express love, a way to connect, and much, much more.

“Zen and the Art of Knitting is crafted like a handmade sweater, with great texture and beauty and love. Bernadette Murphy knits together creativity, spirituality, and daily life, letting us see the rich and wondrous fabric that connects all of it, all of us, ‘in a piece.’ This is a book readers will want to wrap themselves up in for comfort, for inspiration, for affirmation of the healing, centering, power of the art.”—Gayle Brandeis, author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write and The Book of Dead Birds: A Novel

“Bernadette Murphy explores the now-radical notion that in the smallest, most mundane gestures, we may find a kind of grace. This book traces her discovery with openness and faith.” —David L. Ulin, author of The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, Labyrinth and The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith.

“The book is full of lore, technical tips, colorful needle-wielding characters, and, ahem, plain old good yarns. Knitting, in Murphy’s hands, is more than a metaphor; it is tangible, proof of the inner-connectedness of all living things.” —Michelle Huneven, author of Off Course, Blame and Jamesland

”A wise, illuminating book, for knitters and non-knitters alike.” —Tara Ison, author of Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love and Die at the Movies, Rockaway, and A Child Out Of Alcatraz

Short Stories by Elizabeth A. Havey


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“I’ve long been a fan of Elizabeth A. Havey. I’ve followed and welcomed her writings on Boomer, an exceptional blog of perceptive and stylish essays. Now with the publication of A Mother’s Time Capsule, Havey gives us an important collection of powerful and beautifully crafted short stories, and begins to take her place as an important American writer. The stories capture her unique, almost mystical connection with the complex realities of the American family, as she explores a tremendous range of emotions and actions that permeate family life. Read these polished and beautifully crafted stories and accept Elizabeth A. Havey’s gift of experience and insight. Embrace and be embraced by the power of her work as it opens up your own emotions and memories, leading you back to your own family story.” —James Wagenvoord, author

Mothers. We all have one and we all have memories of our mothers. The word elicits strong feelings, mostly positive. But mothers are diverse and so is their mothering and the circumstances in which they’ve raised, loved, cared for or failed a child. Each story in Elizabeth A. Havey’s collection, A MOTHER’S TIME CAPSULE, presents a different journey, a varied view of this life-changing responsibility. Here you’ll meet aging mothers, fearful mothers, single and divorced moms, a mother deprived of her child, another dealing with the attempted suicide of a daughter. Motherhood is love and caring, complete joy and devastating sorrow. It can fill the heart with sweet moments, or trouble the mind with conflict and thorny choice. And though some women may never have children of their own, as our mothers age the role often reverses, and like it or not we will know many of the challenges of motherhood then.

Short Stories and a Novel from Susan Taylor Chehak

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The Minor Apocalypse of Meena Krejci

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A companion to TOYLAND


“Mark Smith is a writer who, like Thomas Wolfe, has The Gift—the magical ability to transmute familiar and trivial elements of life into images of distinction, rarity and fascination.” —Philadelphia Bulletin

“One of the most ambitious, original and thought-provoking novelists writing today.” —Chicago Daily News


Set in a great, brooding house lashed by the wintry Lake Michigan wind, this brilliantly chilling novel explores the ultimate moral and financial decline of an eminent American family. Walter Wold—a sulking, paranoid figure who’s slipped cruelly, inhumanly out of harmony with nature—has delivered his brother’s orphaned children into the hands of two hired killers. Now in the silent cellar, foul-smelling with the decay of a disappearing time, he will confront the appalling consequences of his acts. It is Walter’s most peculiar obsession that this basement of his disintegrating home be kept absolutely, absurdly scoured clean. All superfluous possessions, the detritus of the past, must go. It is a place where he plays with his fabulously real toy trains, a figment of a bygone era. It is a place he wants no one to invade. And it is the place where he must face his own terrible emptiness and guilt, in a powerful novel of literary beauty and nightmare theme.




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In Spider Woman’s Loom, Lorie Adair weaves a tale both lyrical and deeply relatable, a story of family, spirituality, and womanhood. Such beautiful language and images to savor, and yet the story is so compelling you can’t wait to turn the page. —Tara Ison, author of Rockaway, A Novel

Spider Woman’s Loom is an exquisitely woven tale by debut novelist Lorie Adair. Set on the vast and starkly beautiful Navajo reservation in the aftermath of Indian agents exploiting the land and sending children to faraway boarding schools for assimilation, Spider Woman’s Loom is narrated by Noni Lee, an old Navajo weaver whose instinct for survival and fierce resistance drives away even those she loves most.

When her estranged niece Shi’yazhi returns to Sweet Canyon pregnant and utterly alone, Noni Lee is forced to face memories of her own innocence and beauty as well as the haunting traumas that stripped them away. Weaving a traditional rug, Noni Lee reconstructs a history and sense of family for herself and Shi’yazhi—the legacy of Spider Woman, whose gifts of creation and resiliency are a rite passed mother to child, woman to woman, as it was in the beginning, the surest path to hozho, the Beauty within each woman and the transcendence of circumstances most dire.


courtesy of the University of  Iowa Press

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Now Available IN PRINT

Kerry Madden-Lunsford’s Hilarious Novel about Growing Up with Football

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We are pleased to announce that Lois Phillips Hudson and one of our new Rural Lit Rally EditionsUNRESTORABLE HABITAT: MICROSOFT IS MY NEIGHBOR NOWare being featured in the summer issue of ARCHES, the alumni magazine of the University of Puget Sound. Hudson graduated from UPS in 1949. Many thanks to Dr. Ann Putnam (long-time friend of Lois) for writing the introduction, and to ARCHES editor Chuck Luce, for producing such a gorgeous piece. You can view the article online HERE.

New Rural Lit Rally Edition from Paul Corey

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The Mantz Trilogy, particularly The Road Returns, documents a time of great change in America. During this period, young people began to move away from farming as a life choice. The once rare automobile could be found—in almost every barn. The boom and bust of the economy as a result of the war and advances in automation forever changed our way of life.

Yet, when we read the story of the Mantz family of almost a century ago, we can find many things to identify with—the nasty and manipulative neighbor who has his own sorrows, the joys and heartaches of raising children, the economic and political factors whose impact on our lives seem out of our control, right down to the drunk driving accident, unplanned pregnancy, and even suicide.

We hope you enjoy this second volume of Paul Corey’s The Mantz Trilogy for what it is: a story primarily of the trials and tribulations that come of the interaction and interconnection of a few families at a pivotal time in our collective history.

Author Paul Corey was born and raised on a 160 acre farm in western Iowa. He was the youngest of seven children. His father died when Paul was not yet two years old, leaving older brothers and sisters to carry on with the farm work until the place was sold in 1917, at which point the Corey’s moved to Atlantic. This family history would become the autobiographical basis for the Mantz trilogy, the chronicle of one family and their neighbors on a journey through the nation’s tumultuous agricultural history.

A New Novel from Susan Taylor Chehak

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“[Chehak’s] ambitiously imaginative novel questions the very nature of reality… [a] diverting exploration of metaphysical concepts. Winsome and smartly playful.”  —Kirkus Reviews


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“A tremendously funny and touching book. I really loved it.” —Diane Keaton

Kerry Madden-Lunsford’s fresh, often hilarious, debut novel presents a bittersweet and unforgettable tale of adolescence. On the surface, the Donegals seem the picture-perfect norm of a nuclear family in the 1970s. But seen through the eyes of Liz Donegal, her world teeters on the brink of disintegration. Liz’s father, an assistant college football coach, uproots his family annually with the motivational compassion of “Get your ass in the car.” Her brothers Joe-Sam and Leo, whose first words are “hut, hut, hike,” and sister, Peaches, a wannabe cheerleader, pick apart their lives and tentatively pull together in whatever town they land in, whether it’s Bobcat Country or Shark Territory. While chaos reigns within the Donegal household, outside the family dog Halfback is busy digging up his predecessor Bear Bryant. At the center of this remarkable cast of characters, Liz creates a world for herself spun out of best friends, books, secret glimpses at sex manuals, and a few adults who actually understand what it means to grow up “offsides.” Fostered by the creativity of her aunt Betty and uncle Peter, Liz first glimpses life beyond football games and Catholic school. When she isn’t busy rebelling, singing Lou Reed songs, or transforming herself into Helen Keller or Anne Frank, Liz is falling in love, discovering herself, and learning that life also has some painful lessons.



She’s seen her times and her town change forever, and when murder destroys the peace, she knows that nothing can be the way it once was. “Absolutely stunning… Reads with the force and generational sweep of some ancient rural myth.” —New York Times Book Review


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A startling tale of illicit passion, transgression, and retribution, set in the very heart of middle America. “A deeply chilling, disturbing, beautifully written novel. Shocking, stunningly written… Faulkner himself would have admired and respected [DANCING ON GLASS]… Its events should linger in the reader’s mind long after it has been read.” –Los Angeles Daily News

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If you liked “True Detective” you will love Toyland.


Mark Smith’s brilliant first novel is an exciting tour de force which explores startling new dimensions of innocence and dread, destruction and redemption, guilt and responsibility through the lives of its two protagonists, Pehr and Jensen. They are middle-aged, intelligent, alienated from the flesh-and-blood world that has broken them. Their profession is killing for hire. Jensen, a soulless and crafty assassin, amuses himself by the intermittent mental torture of his partner Pehr, equally depraved but with power left to perceive his own depravity.

At the request of a rich and malevolent eccentric, the two men have undertaken the murder of two small children: the boy Poor and his sister Iselin. It is early spring; the children, already captives, are in the front seat of the car; their suitcases and stuffed animals are in the trunk; Pehr is driving and playing whimsical games with the children, while in the back seat, Jensen is deliberating the details of the children’s deaths.

As Pehr drives the car toward a tautly awaited climax deep in the Michigan woods, the satanic inner mechanisms of the murderers reveal themselves through Pehr’s dreams, déjà vues, frozen moment and flashbacks. Their perversity and evil and their struggle against it take many forms–ranging from outright terror to a bizarre humor verging on slapstick–which ultimately reflect a fatalistic but compassionate human condition that all of us share by the very fact of our existence.

With its evocative landscapes and atmospheric descriptions, its unique portrayal of the introspective criminal, and its subtle, probing language, TOYLAND alternates between the real and the phantasmagoric–between modern metaphysical thought and folk themes older than Grimm.

“Superficially, this is a bleak tragedy in which hired killers move like puppets and their victims do not resist… Pehr, the guilt-ridden man who tells the story has been told to ‘erase’ two children. The children are to be murdered in the (woods) of Michigan. On this macabre plot are hung questions of modern philosophy and of man’s fate and free will. The writing is brilliant. The philosophical theorizing is made immediate and agonizing.”  —Jessie Kitching, Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“On one level, this is a jagged projection of violence, guilt and imbalance; on another it’s a mood piece of still, chill dread framed by the scrub wilderness and forests of…Michigan—an ‘unlit world.’ Here, Pehr, a loner, and Jensen, his keeper, bring two unwanted children whom they’ve been hired to kill… An original…a Hansel and Gretel horror story, slowly and surely immobilizing.”  —Library Journal

“…a brilliantly-told brutal fairy tale. Sure to evoke varied responses among readers, the story effectively explores evil and the condition of man, through horrible fantasies and explorations of characters lead to an intensely-awaited climax.”  —Carman F. Hall, Boston Globe

“A combination of Pinter’s Dumb Waiter and Hansel and Gretel (as told by a guilty troll) in modern dress… an arduous cycle from one event and from one locale…this sense of place and mental activity make the work a peculiarly vast reel of felt landscapes and releases…the ambition and enormous effort of the author are well justified.”  —John Casey, Confluence

“A serious effort to meld reality and dream and explore the struggle of conscience within the criminal mind… In one effective scene an imagined children’s Halloween party turns into a Witches’ Sabbath, projecting a worldly guilt into a sudden vision of unspeakable evil.”  —Eliot Fremont-Smith, The New York Times

“Morbid cruelty can’t be dismissed as a quirk of the Japanese mind, for here comes a gifted young American novelist to jolt us with an even stronger dose of it… Like Mishima’s novel, (The Sailor Who Fell Into the Sea), this one impresses by the audacity of its concept… The explosive atmosphere of the novel, what might even be called the sheer nastiness of it, compels our reluctant respect… Mark Smith’s novel causes pain out of proportion to its size.”  —Glendy Culligan, New York Sunday Times Book Section

“A neglected book,” recommended by John Irving





Lois Phillips Hudson was a novelist, essayist, professor at the University of Washington, environmental activist, and mother of two daughters. She was born in 1927 in Jamestown, North Dakota. Because of the Depression, her family was forced to move back and forth between North Dakota and Washington State. In 1937 her family finally settled on a twenty-acre homestead in the rural Sammamish River Valley near the town of Redmond, Washington, population, then, only about 300.

Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now recounts how that valley was transformed over the course of Hudson’s lifetime, roughly the sixty-five years from 1937 to 2003. The Sammamish River Valley was for her what Walden Pond was for Thoreau, what the Lake District was Wordsworth, what the farm at Port Royal, Kentucky, is for Wendell Berry. It was both her home land and it was the womb of her imagination. Day after day, year after year, she rode her bicycles, first along the county gravel roads of her youth, then along the asphalt pathways of the Kings County Park and Trail System. As she rode, she observed the natural order and its cycles; she observed the human habitation of this world and how it changed the natural order; she saw rivers where salmon had once been plentiful now dammed for power generation and straightened for flood control. Parking lots covered wetlands. Golf courses and soccer parks replaced farm fields. Suburban housing developments overran apple and cherry orchards. Hudson’s rural habitat of small farms, salmon streams, forests, and the human community closely tied to the natural world were transformed into the suburban technological-capitol of the world, the headquarters of Microsoft, Hudson’s new “neighbor.”

Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now was not published during Hudson’s lifetime.  Hudson left a manuscript that is substantially complete, but not fully finished.  The book tells a unified story.  It has a clear beginning, coherent development of ideas, and a satisfying conclusion.  But it is obvious that Hudson had not done her final editing.  There are many parenthetical comments within the text where she reminds herself to recheck sources, to verify facts, and to delete repetitions.  We are able to observe Hudson’s thought process as she makes suggestions for further revision of her book.  Also, there are a few typographical mistakes.  However, the text is being published as Hudson last left it, without editorial corrections. 

Praise for the work of Lois Phillips Hudson

“It is possible . . . that literary historians of the future will decide that The Bones of Plenty was the farm novel of the Great Drought of the 1920s and 1930s and the Great Depression. Better than any other novel of the period with which I am familiar, Lois Phillips Hudson’s story presents, with intelligence and rare understanding, the frightful disaster that closed thousands of rural banks and drove farmers off their farms, the hopes and savings of a lifetime in ruins about them.”  —New York Times Book Review

“Hudson does a superb job of revealing the physical texture of farm life on the prairie—its sounds, smells, colors, sensations. Then she goes further, examining the spiritual texture as well. Her characters are bound to each other and to their land in a kind of harsh intimacy from which there is no relief. Weather, poverty, anger, and pride are the forces that drive them and ultimately wear them down. . . Like the best books of any era, [The Bones of Plenty] convinces us of its characters’ enduring humanity, and surprises us, again and again, with the depth of emotion it makes us feel.”  —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“At her best, Lois Phillips Hudson can make the American Ordeal of the 1930s so real that you can all but feel the gritty dust in your teeth.” —Omaha World-Herald

“Hudson writes with grace and beauty and an abiding understanding of the meaning of those bitter, tragic years.”—Chicago Tribune

“These tales [Reapers of the Dust] are to ‘discomfit civilization,’ in the tradition of personal accounts of the settling of the West by such writers as Mari Sandoz, Wallace Stegner, and Walter Van Tilburg Clark.”—The Nation




Susan Taylor Chehak


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At the time of her death in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, during the summer of 1970, eighteen-year-old Paula Oberbroeckling was a beautiful leggy blonde who dreamed of becoming a model. She disappeared in the early morning hours of July 11th, after she’d borrowed her roommate’s car to go off on an unspecified errand. She was barefoot and dressed in a sky-blue nightgown with matching panties. The next morning, the roommate’s car was found parked in a no parking zone near a grocery store, and Paula was gone. Four months later, a pair of young brothers who were on a hike along the railroad tracks down by the Cedar River came upon some human remains and homicide detectives were called in. While rumors flew, the ensuing police investigation brought no conclusive answer to what had happened to Paula. All these many years later, the case remains unsolved.

In 2012, Susan Taylor Chehak published a website ( based on this cold case, in an effort to crowdsource an independent investigation by posting there the entire police file, autopsy, FBI reports and other documents, as well as news articles, photographs, and interviews with people who were related to or knew Paula.

This book is made up of all the material that is on the website, compiled in such a way that it tells the story of what happened to Paula in a more accessible, searchable format. It is a compilation of raw data, for you to explore and come to your own conclusions, as if you were investigating the case yourself.

To help discover the truth about what happened to Paula, you are invited to join this collaborative investigation by visiting the website, signing up for a newsletter for ongoing updates, and liking the Facebook page, where readers share information and insights into the case.

NOTE: This e-book will be continually updated as additional data is added and new information comes to light, and as an owner of this book, you will be able to sign up for alerts to these updates as they’re made by visiting the Manage Your Kindle page on These updates will show up as an addendum to the original text, so they’ll be easy for you to access and explore.

All proceeds from sales of this e-book will go toward funding what promises to become a powerful collaborative effort to discover and reveal, at last, what happened to Paula.

If no one is guilty, then everyone’s to blame.



Meredith Sue Willis

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“This character Martha is so genuine.  Every thought and every spoken word rings true.”  —Shelley Ettinger, whose work has been published in Newtown Literary, Mississippi Review, Blithe House Quarterly, Lodestar Quarterly Snow Monkey and many other places.

Love Palace made me realize that a good novel opens like life—with innumerable paths spread out before you….and the reader is eager to follow Martha’s.” —Rebecca Kavaler, award winning author of the Further Adventures of BrunhildTigers in the Wood, and Next of Kin.

The narrator of Meredith Sue Willis’s engaging new novel has just turned forty, quit her job, been jilted by her live-in boyfriend and suspended by her therapist for nonpayment. Martha plunges into a personal meltdown the way some people plunge into a bag of doughnuts. Against her better judgment, she takes a job at a settlement house known as “Love Palace” in a run-down community that is about to be razed for urban renewal.

There Martha discovers that she has a talent for managing the dysfunctional institution and its staff of young runaways. She is attracted by the charismatic reverend who oversees Love Palace as well as by Robby, one of the staff members, who is rich, handsome, recently released from a hospital after a suicide attempt, and intensely ambivalent about his sexuality.

Along with the Love Palace crew of runaways, derelicts, struggling blue collar workers, a former Black Panther, and many others, Martha has to deal with her ex-hillbilly mother, who favors shoulder pads and big hair; her sister the big-shot lawyer; and her dying Jewish grandmother.

At first Martha views Love Palace as a kind of theater arranged for her personal amusement, but she finds herself increasingly concerned about the people and the neighborhood. Then she discovers that someone is stealing money, and that there are perhaps other betrayals underway as well.

There is a wedding in the middle and a funeral at the end.


by Paul Corey

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A captivating story that is the first volume in what has become known as the “Mantz trilogy,” Three Miles Square garnered glowing reviews from some of the nation’s luminary mid-twentieth century intellectuals when it was first published in 1939. Lewis Mumford, for instance, proclaimed the novel to be “one of the best novels of agricultural America that anyone has produced in our generation . . . I recommend it to all those who wish to read more intimately the living face of America.”  Louis Bromfield urged Americans to “Read it: aside from the pleasure you will have, you will learn much and it will do a great deal toward helping you to understand this vast curious country of yours.”

 Author Paul Corey was born and raised on a 160 acre farm in western Iowa. He was the youngest of seven children. His father died when Paul was not yet two years old, leaving older brothers and sisters to carry on with the farm work until the place was sold in 1917, at which point the Corey’s moved to Atlantic. This family history would become the autobiographical basis for the Mantz trilogy, the chronicle of one family and their neighbors on a journey through the nation’s tumultuous agricultural history.


by John Leggett

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John Leggett’s newest novel features 30-ish painter Quentin Shaw, who quits his satisfactory job at a prestigious Boston firm to prove his artistic gift. He packs his wife and their infant son off with him to arty Cape Ann where, after months of discouragement, Quent is discovered by Miles Proctor, the flamboyant impresario of Crow Island, a seaside gallery of contemporary art. While Quent rejoices in the parties and the opportunity, Joyce dislikes Miles and feels he is leading her husband into new, and even more dangerous, self-deception.

Meanwhile, the spirited women in Miles’s life join Bruce Gregory—a self-pronounced champion of tomorrow’s outrages in painterly abstraction—and other familiars of Crow Island in a perilous storm funnel of ambition, scorn, love, lust, and death. Crow Island is a beautifully crafted story about the risk of doing one’s thing and the fear in every artist’s heart that his is a selfish, egotistical path… one that is doubtlessly doomed. “Mr. Leggett’s ability to create flesh-and-blood characters is impressive.” —The Reporter

ROSS AND TOM: Two American Tragedies

by John Leggett

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“Enthralling. It ought to be read by all editors, publishers, writers, and critics and by the general reading public, for it is the best case-history account of the writing profession in America I have ever read.” —James A. Michener


This is the story of Ross Lockridge, author of Raintree County, and Thomas Heggen, creator of Mr. Roberts, each catapulted into sudden fame and money, each thrust young and unprepared into the center of the American Dream, and each, in his own way, playing out a tragedy of self-destruction.

John Leggett has re-created their growing up in a Midwest of deep American traditions and has explored their loves and friendships to discover why their lives ultimately failed them.

Ross Lockridge was dedicated to celebrating the American Spirit, its history and its heritage, and his work, reflecting it, was hailed as the most ambitious since that of Thomas Wolfe. But Puritan pride and tradition would not let him live easily with the complexities and contradictions of acclaim.

Thomas Heggen had all the glamour of theatrical success. His days were spent with such men as Henry Fonda, Joshua Logan, Budd Schulberg, and Ernest Hemingway. It seemed a charmed life. But he had already gone through one marriage and was addicted to drink and pills, and his dark and brooding spirit seemed to take no pleasure in its rewards.

Ross and Tom is a deep and hauntingly detailed portrait of two gifted writers, the worlds in which they moved, and their final descent into the Fitzgeraldian crack-up where “in the real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.”

“Fascinating and timely.” —Tracy Kidder

“A fine example of literary and psychological investigation… It wrenches the heart. Yet it is neither maudlin nor excessive. It is affectionate but dispassionate, and it reaches its conclusions calmly.” —Jonathan Yardley, New York Times Book Review (front page)

“A deeply compassionate double portrait of the artist in creation and in crisis. An extraordinary achievement.” —Mel Gussow, Newsday

“Leggett has told us more about the tragedy of American Success than a dozen novelists could.” —Frederick Exley

“A riveting, utterly engrossing psychological probe.” —Publishers Weekly

“If, as Jimmy Walker once said, no woman was ever ruined by a book, men have nonetheless been killed by them….In these two case histories of obsession and ruin, Leggett reveals much about ambition, vanity, and the self-destructiveness that often accompany literary success in America. This is a compelling book.” —Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek

“John Leggett has written the literary biography of Ross Lockridge and Tom Heggen, and of our age as well.” —Jerome Klinkowitz, Chicago Tribune

“A powerful and engrossing picture.” —Francis Steegmuller

“A distinguished literary event.” —Robert Downing, Denver Post

“For writers and aspiring writers (and how many of us are not in the latter category?), this book is indispensable reading… No one who has had anything to do with the literary life in America—or, for that matter, with the pursuit of achievement in America—can fail to hear the relevant echoes. The book, quite apart from its fascinating narrative, its Rashomon quality of detection, has as much to say about the nature and quality of ourselves as about the two protagonists.” —Robert Kirsch, Los Angeles Times

BUMP, a novel

by Diana Wagman

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“Set in L.A., Diana Wagman’s Bump begins (appropriately enough, in that car-carpeted town) with a fender bender. Gradually, the story metamorphoses (more appropriately still, in that city of dreams become film) into a fairy tale. This remarkable journey from a commuter’s daily life to a zone of romantic enchantment is marked by keen sociological observations and flashing moments of humor.” —Brad Leithauser, author of A Few Corrections: A Novel


From an award-winning writer, this is a darkly funny, cinematic page-turner that explores the line between obsession and love. Bump is the story of a trio of motorists and one policeman linked together by a tangled, life-altering web of coincidence in the immediate aftermath of a three-car pileup in Los Angeles. Dorothy is to be married in less than 24 hours but can’t shake the memory of her ex-boyfriend. Madelyn is a married mother of two who falls in love with a double-amputee she met through a suicide hotline. Leo is a golden-eyed Latino who speaks no Spanish and has come to L.A. to reclaim his girlfriend. Ray is a suicide-obsessed Beverly Hills cop whose wife has just left him. Diana Wagman’s fast-paced and vividly cinematic narrative presents an engrossing tableau of synchronicity steered by obsession and alienation. Beautifully written and deeply affecting, Bump is hard to put down, and hard to forget. “Diana Wagman is wicked fun, and…Bump shows off her talents to a T. Witty, perceptive and compulsively readable.”    —Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander

“Wagman’s crisp and lively prose makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read: the pages flew by.” —Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and The Color Master: Stories

“Darkly funny and compelling…Bump belts the reader in for a trippy Carveresque adventure.” —East Bay Express

“[Diana Wagman’s] minidramas recall Ann Beattie’s or Lorrie Moore’s clarity.” —San Francisco Chronicle

…[D]espite the relentlessly dark subject matter, Wagman’s writing has a hypnotic, rhythmic quality that keeps the reader interested till the end.” —Kathleen Hughes, Booklist


By Janet Sternburg

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Photo by Janet Sternburg
Photo by Janet Sternburg

Phantom Limb is a wise and courageous memoir that moves between past and present, chronicling an adult daughter’s journey through the final years of her parents’ lives. A story of discovering love through adversity as well as an inquiry into contemporary neurology and spiritual life, Phantom Limb is a moving meditation on the struggle to make peace with physical and emotional ghosts of the past. Janet Sternburg write with such warmth and honesty that loss itself becomes luminous: “This is the grace of the last years, the children coming to understand the contradictions in their parents, not to reconcile them but encompass them in a larger love.”

Janet Sternburg is a writer of memoir, essays, poetry and plays, as well as a fine-art photographer. Her books include Phantom Limb, the classic two volumes of The Writer on Her Work, described as “groundbreaking…a landmark,” and Optic Nerve: Photopoems.


by Duff Brenna

Available only on Kindle


“You’re killing me, Duffy,” the mom always said. In his memoir, Murdering the Mom, award-winning novelist Duff Brenna elevates the obscene to the sublime. He takes all the materials of hardship and abuse during an unhappy childhood and sculpts it into art, into something transcendent. This is a heart-rending memoir that exceeds the expectations one normally has of a memoir, that is, it reads like a captivating novel.

“Perhaps the most remarkable achievement of this remarkable memoir by award-winning novelist Duff Brenna is its humanity. The characters in this book–hell, its nonfiction, they’re not characters, they’re people!–do hateful, hurtful things to one another. They are lost in their needs, their aberrations, their dreams, their longing–too lost to take stock of the effect of their own behavior upon the people with whom they share their lives and who depend upon them, not least the children who are hostages to a kind of madness…He is not settling old scores–and god knows there were scores he might well have wanted to settle if he’d had a mind to. But no,  he is exploring–unsparingly, unflinchingly, but above all fairly, with balance and breathtaking honesty–the humanity of a group of people born into and continually creating a kind of hell in which they thras around without a clue as to how to get out.” –Thomas E. Kennedy, author of In the Company of Angels and Falling Sideways.

Duff Brennna is the author of six novels, including The Book of Mamie, which won the AWP Award for Best Novel; The Holy Book of the Beard, named “an underground classic” by The New York Times; Too Cool, a New York Times Noteworthy Book; The Altar of the Body, given the Editors Prize Favorite Book of the Year Award, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and also received a San Diego Writers Association Award for Best Novel in 2002.


A NOVEL by Meredith Sue Willis

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“A Space Apart is so deftly and subtly written, I hardly noticed how involved I’d become until I’d read the last page and turned it, wanting more. The Scarlin family is going to be with me for a very long time.” –Anne Tyler

“Willis fleshes out with warmth and tenderness the complexities of family love, which not only defines commitment but deepens the need. An important new talent.” —The Kirkus Reviews

“The narrative carries warmth and strength. The people are as real as your next door neighbors.” — Houston Chronicle

“Willis views the Scarlin family ties and loyalties, limits and tensions, with realism, sensitivity and precision. A noteworthy first novel.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“This is the story of a broken family trying to mend itself through three generations. It is a painful but essential process, and like all such repair jobs, it is only partly successful. Before it is over we come to know John and Vera and Mary Kay, as well as Vera’s daughters, Lee and Tonie–to understand the wars they must declare and the peaces that they are able to proclaim within the state of being Scarlins. —The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Willis shapes her story with exquisite care, detailing the lives of a West Virginia preacher’s family: John Scarlin, minister and son of ‘the Preacher,’ a wild old born-again Baptist; John’s sturdy sister Mary Katherine; his capricious wife Vera, a strong character who commands attention in one fine scene after another; and his daughter Lee and Tonie who grow up to reject and embrace the meaning of Galatia, their hometown… Finally what is revealed by a family, inextricably bound together while struggling with each other’s need to find ‘a place apart.’ Narratively skilled and disciplined, this is an impressive debut. —Library Journal

Meredith Sue Willis grew up in West Virginia where her parents were both teachers. She has degrees from Barnard College and Columbia University, and her fiction has been published by Scribners’, HarperCollins, West Virginia University Press, Mercury House, Ohio University Press, and others. Her book of literary short stories, In the Mountains of America, was praised in the New York Times Book Review as “a[n]…important lesson on the nature and function of literature itself.” Her novels for children are Billie of Fish House Lane, The Secret Super Powers of Marco and Marco’s Monster.



Cover Art and Design by Lucinda Luvaas

The Seductions of Natalie Bach 

National Book Award and Pen/Faulkner Award nominee

Available only on kindle

“Natalie, like the bellwether of a generation she claimed to repudiate, made leaps that made me dizzy, caught up in the catharsis of cool despair, imminent apocalypse, and sexual divination. So much the seeker, lop-eyed celebrant, impressionable tabula rasa upon which the moment could etch its havoc.

“One day she appeared at my apartment in plaster-spattered jeans, hair splashed out in a great nimbus. Her eyes glowed; she was perhaps high. Beside her was a blond beautiful creature, real pretty boy, with refined, nearly feminine features and transparent blue eyes. She had come to show us off to each other.

“‘This is Claude,’ she smiled, innocent as a spring flower, wholly incognizant of the sun’s infidelity. And he offered a smile that was all sex and narcissism.'”  —from The Seductions of Natalie Bach

Going Under

National Book Critics Circle Award nominee

Available only on kindle

The haunting story of a woman’s journey to Bedlam, and the ramifications for her children when she fails to make it back. Portraying a family in crisis—and told from the children’s point of view—this dark and moving tale depicts drinking, mental instability, adultery, and a mother’s ultimate sacrifice as her children struggle to deal with their tormented childhood.

“…a striking family melodrama…” —Library Journal

“A surreal and frightening air prevails as guilt, aggression and madness escalate in this powerful evocation of family members coming to grips with their crimes against one another.” —Publisher’s Weekly


Ashley Templeton is RUINING My Life

by Kate Aspengren

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Cover Art and Design by BK Loren

It’s clear that this is not the seventh grade that Kyle Reedy had planned. He can deal with the yeti-sized Ross Wilkie, who harasses Kyle like it’s his job. Kyle can accept the fact that he made a mistake in filling out the form for his school’s required community service. (Yes, he’d planned to be stocking shelves in the food pantry, which sounded pretty easy, and instead he discovered he’d be on scooper duty at the local greyhound rescue.) But the part that he can’t handle, the part that is absolutely wrong, is what happens in band.

Kyle, who loves making music more than anything else, learns on the first day that the coveted seat in his band’s first clarinet section, a seat that should be his, a seat that was destined to be his, has been given to someone else. Her.

Ashley Templeton. And he’s pretty sure that every single problem he’s having is all her fault.

[Middle Grade: Ages 8-12]

Ashley Templeton is Ruining My Life is one of the funniest books I have ever read. Kate Aspengren nails the voice of a likeable middle-school boy and his friends as she tells a story that is charming, delightful, hilarious, moving, and deeply satisfying. I loved it!” —Kelly Dwyer, author of two novels and two children’s books, including Self-Portrait with Ghosts and The Dream Tree

“Kate Aspengren is a gifted writer who clearly hasn’t forgotten a thing about either the joy or the turmoil of adolescence. Ashley Templeton Is Ruining My Life is a funny, sweet story, with great characters and a lot of heart.” —Bart Yates, author of Leave Myself Behind

“Kate Aspengren’s writing is crisp, clear, and flavored with a dry wit.” —Maggie Conroy, author of Maria Mitchell’s Discovery

“This novel is filled with laughs and irresistible characters. I loved them all—even Ashley Templeton.” —Mary Vermillion, author of Seminal Murder


by Douglas Bauer



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Cover Art and Design by The University of Iowa Press

“A novel of considerable nuance and power.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Douglas Bauer is a consummate storyteller, his prose is hypnotic, charged with beauty and pain, his characters drawn with intelligent and pristine detail… This is a novel possessing tremendous heart, and that much less affable quality—soul.” —Melissa Pritchard, Chicago Tribune

“A distinctive story because of the emotion that drives it… Poignant and sensitively portrayed.” —Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times

“A gem of a novel… It is the art that makes this book a prize.” —Kurt Jensen, The Philadelphia Enquirer

When Will Vaughn’s mother falls in love with the star pitcher of the town baseball club, she scandalizes not only her husband, son, and eccentric mother-in-law but also the God-fearing inhabitants of New Holland, Iowa. Looking back with an adult’s perspective and still wounded by his mother’s abrupt departure, Will recounts the story of his parents’ courtship and marriage during World War II, his life on the family farm, the erosion of his parents’ affection, and their memorable final break. And looming above them all is the extraordinary figure of Will’s grandmother, who from her upstairs apartment presides over the fulminations beneath as she compiles her “Book of Famous Iowans” in an attempt to fathom the Janus-like faces of fame and infamy.


by Douglas Bauer

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Cover Art and Design by The University of Iowa Press

“Suspenseful, poignant and irresistibly entertaining… Bauer makes some wonderful observations about life in America during the 1900s, and about humanity’s eternal need for illusion, and his characterization is sharp and funny.” —Publishers Weekly   “[An] engaging and episodic romp through the first half of the 20th-century… A classic tragedy of hubris… An imaginative lark in the Doctorow vein… rough-and-tumble fiction that exults in its inventiveness…” —Kirkus Reviews   “Chillingly eloquent and very much in the American grain.” —Newsday, Dan Cryer   “. . . the rise and fall of that quintessential American hero, the salesman; the ending of Hollywood’s golden age; the birth of broadcasting. It is material in which Mr. Bauer justifiably delights and, when he is at his best, is more than a match for…. a very funny book.” —The New York Times Book Review, Robert Houston


by Douglas Bauer


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Cover Art and Design by The University of Iowa Press

“An altogether stunning debut. Bauer’s prose is rich, startlingly resonant, stylistically powerful.” — The Detroit News “Brilliant-one of those relatively rare novels, first or otherwise, that just keep getting better as they unfold.” — The Washington Post Book World


by Tara Ison

1997 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist


“Searingly original, brutal, unique. Tara Ison is unquestionably an important new voice in American fiction.” —Carolyn See, author of The Handyman

“A fascinating and wonderfully evocative first novel about life on Alcatraz – seen through the eyes of a little girl growing up on the Rock in the 1950s. A compelling story, richly evoking a time and place.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Ison has a gift…the fearsome plight of Olivia, who narrates much of the novel, is never simplified. It’s through her radiant consciousness that Ison’s novel achieves a natural, basic morality.” —Publishers Weekly

“Disturbing, dark, and original. A stunning first novel.” —Feminist Bookstore News

“What makes A Child out of Alcatraz particularly memorable is its unique venue…the author paints a searing portrait of an American family that might have been typical had fate and history not intervened.” —Glamour

“This is a sad, often beautiful novel… Ison renders the slow disintegration of a once-vital woman, and its effect on her daughter, with perfect heartbreaking despair. A provocative story.” —Boston Book Review

A Child out of Alcatraz is an energetic, captivating novel…we are left wanting more of her because that voice—so rare and flawless—is a crystalline sound one doesn’t want to end.” —Bloomsbury Review

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