Between Heaven and Here
by Susan Straight
What I’m reading now… an occasional post by the proprietor…
Susan Straight has long been on the short list of English-language fiction writers dear to my heart– along with Michael Ondaatje, Jayne Anne Phillips, Breece D’J Pancake, Denis Johnson– admittedly, the writers I stumbled on back in the 1980s and ’90s, mostly from browsing the stacks at Bonanza Books down on Market Street, around Kearny or Sansome, and from hanging out in the Mechanics Institute Library around the corner… escaping the dreariness of office work necessitated by the economic realities of raising a family… Ah, browsing! escape! discovery…
Straight was off and running then, writing a string of incredibly flowing, fully imagined books starting with the novel, I’ve Been in Sorrow’s Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots (1993), set among the Geechee people, the Gullahs, of the South Carolina Lowcountry region. Actually, that debut novel was preceded by a collection of short stories, Aquaboogie, that introduced her own milieu, the marginalized neighborhoods at the edges of Riverside, the inland Southern California city where she lives (called Rio Seco in her novels A Million Nightingales and Take One Candle Light a Room).
Between Heaven and Here (hardcover, $24), set again in Rio Seco, was released a couple of days ago– I’m just 50 pages in and you have to take it slow, teasing out the complexity of the characters, the setting, the set-up, and then absorbing the impact of the events and lives that play out across the pages. She’s a flat-out brilliant writer with an honest connection to her material that 99% of her colleagues in the fiction trade don’t begin to touch.
Here’s a link to a wonderful background piece that she did about the writing of this novel– though I hesitate to let you read it before you first let her novel start its work on you. Still, if I don’t give you the link now, I’ll forget to do it later, so here goes… click here and bookmark it, & save it to read after you’ve hustled down here or to the library to get the book…
Can’t get to the bookshop? email us and we’ll ship a copy to you. [email protected]
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