Christina grew up in rural Wisconsin so I am thrilled to have her visit today. She has a new book out, The Edge of the Earth, was released April 2. Check out my review after Christina’s post and be sure to enter the giveaway.
In An American Childhood, Annie Dillard writes about how the books she read as a girl led her away from the Midwest that had nourished her and that she loved with its “big hardwood trees outside the windows, and the terrible Midwest summers, and the terrible Midwest winters.” She says that the Midwest lovingly wills its children to “stay and find a place among its familiar possibilities.” In the end, though, she sorrowfully left it, “having grown strong and restless” in the very act of opposing that will. The theme in The Edge of the Earth that feels most tightly tied to my real life is the idea of feeling compelled to leave a loving world of familiar possibilities for who knows what. When I decided that my character was going to travel to a strange and isolated lighthouse in California, I knew instantly that the other side of that story—the known and civilized world that she would leave—would be Milwaukee.
However long I live in California—or elsewhere (I’ve flitted back and forth across the country several times)—I will forever identify myself first as a Midwesterner. Perhaps distinctions of geography are less powerful than they once were, but to me there’s still a detectable difference. The Easterner has a degree of sophistication and the Westerner conveys an uncomplicated self-confidence that I will forever lack. Instead, I possess the down-to-earth quality of the Midwesterner, a trait I’m convinced is not unrelated to a matter-of-factness that comes from thinking that it’s perfectly normal to move through air chilled to 40 below and then superheated to 97 humid degrees within a six month period.
Wisconsin settings are key elements in three of my four novels, and even in the book that has no scene in the literal Midwest—All Is Vanity —I deliberately incorporated a California town, Glendale, that has for me a Midwestern flavor. The Midwest is where I learned to see and appreciate the world. That its beauties are often subtle, softened by rolling hills and dense layers of green, has made me a careful observer, alert to fine detail. That drama in the Midwest is often understated, cloaked by polite cheerfulness, gives me a keen understanding of the complexity of people’s motives and behavior.
In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carroway finds himself unable to fully enter into the excesses of the east coast, but because he has the perspective of a Midwesterner, which in his case might boil down to a clear sense of who he is, he’s able to clearly perceive and tell the story of Gatsby, Daisy and Tom (other Midwesterners who lose their way). For me, too, the Midwest is the grounding place, the essence of home.
About This Author
Christina Schwarz, author of three previous novels, including Oprah Book Club pick Drowning Ruth, grew up in rural Wisconsin. She has lived in Washington D.C., New York City, England and New Hampshire, and now lives in Pasadena, California. To capture the atmosphere of the central California coast for The Edge of the Earth, she dragged her husband and son (along with a passel of dogs and a cat) to Big Sur for months at a time.
The Edge of the Earth: A Novel
Atria Books (April 2, 2013)
A Division of Simon & Schuster
Hardcover: 288 pages
E-Book File Size: 741 KB
In 1898, a woman forsakes the comfort of home and family for a love that takes her to a remote lighthouse on the wild coast of California. What she finds at the edge of the earth, hidden between the sea and the fog, will change her life irrevocably.
Trudy has been raised to marry her childhood sweetheart and make her home in Milwaukee but she yearns for a more adventurous life and she falls in love with Oskar. He plans to travel far away from the Midwest and she believes she has found an escape to her preordained life.
But she never imagined a life like this. Alienated from friends and family the couple moves to Point Lucia, California. A desolate outcropping between the ocean and inaccessible wilderness. Oskar is the new assistant lighthouse keeper and the only other inhabitants of the area are the Crawleys who are very set in their ways. Trudy will find that nothing is as she might have predicted, especially as she discovers what hides among the rocks.
Schwarz is a truly gifted storyteller. Her descriptive style of writing gives this poignant story a life that was pure pleasure to read.
She has created rich and realistic characters and placed them in an extraordinary place. Imagine days filled with talking with 4 other adults and 4 children for months and months on end. The tender only brings supplies every few months.
Trudy goes from a life where practically everything was done for her to taking care of herself and her husband and even teaching the children. Oskar is a stubborn, selfish man. He has dreams for a great invention but he loses interest before any come to fruition. Euphemia Crawley is a woman hardened by her isolated life. She tries to keep rein on 4 wild, rambunctious children who have frequent “mermaid sightings”.
The story takes some unexpected turns and this reader was surprised by the ending. I enjoyed The Edge of the Earth. It is a story that will stick with you.
I am giving my gently read review copy to one lucky winner.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”