I’m grateful to Chicago author Patricia Skalka for reviewing Cementville at Books in Brief!

Books in Brief

On the opening page of this amazing novel, seven black hearses roll down the highway toward the small  Kentucky town of Cementville. “Each black hearse with a small flag fluttering from its antenna, each containing a flag-draped coffin.”  The story is set during the Viet Nam war in a small community that suffers the loss of seven of its finest young men, killed in a single battle. This really happened in the author’s hometown, and in creating a fictionalized version of the story, Paulette Livers skillfully peels back layers of grief as she tunnels into the hearts and minds of the locals, many of whom struggle to hold onto the old ways even as the world is changing all around them.

Cementville is the kind of place where folks know one another’s business, where family trees are tangled at the roots and where destiny is often ordained at birth. Every soul…

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Thank you, Chicago Literati!

Chicago Literati

Cementville400Author Paulette Livers’ debut novel Cementville has been shortlisted for the Chicago Writers Association’s novel of the year and the Center for Fiction’s Flaherty Dunnan First Novel Prize.

Livers has been lauded by Kirkus ReviewsPublishers Weekly, Richard Bausch and others for her “unflinching” storytelling ability and “earnest portrait of the homefront”. Booklist even went as far to compare Livers’ writing complementary to unique style of Marilynn Robinson.

Cementville details the sociopolitical unrest in a small southern town during the Vietnam War. Read the full synopsis below:

In late spring of 1969, a picturesque southern town is turned inside out by the deaths of seven young National Guardsmen in a single Vietcong attack. The return of the bodies sets off something inside the town itself—a sense of violence, a political reality, a gnawing unease with the future—pushing the families of Cementville into alienation and grief.
The town appears blind to…

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Here’s Bill Wolfe (in his great blog Read Her Like An Open Book) interviewing Jessica Anya Blau, with whom I’ll be reading at KBG Bar in NY this coming Sunday. Can’t wait to get my hands on “The Summer of Naked Swim Parties”!

Read Her Like an Open Book


Jessica Anya Blau is the irrepressible author of three darkly comic novels set in her home state of California: The Summer of Naked Swim Parties (2008), Drinking Closer to Home (2011), and The Wonder Bread Summer (2013). She was educated at UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University and has lived in Toronto and Baltimore, but her sensibility  remains distinctly Californian.

Her latest novel has attracted a lot of attention and received great acclaim for its depiction of a madcap California road trip set against the dark underbelly of the 80s cocaine culture. Influences from Alice in Wonderland abound. NPR selected the novel as a “Thrilling Summer Read,” Oprah.com’s book club picked the book as a “Thrilling Beach Read,” and CNN featured it as a “Best Beach Read.”

But here we mostly discuss Blau’s first novel, The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, which I reviewed on Sept. 1.

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So very grateful to Bill Wolfe for the wonderful work he does promoting literary fiction by women writers at ReadHerLikeAnOpenBook.com

Read Her Like an Open Book

Paulette Livers   Cementville

Paulette Livers is the author of Cementville, a 2014 novel about the impact of the Vietnam War on a rural Kentucky community when seven local boys are killed in one battle and a POW returns home to rebuild his life. Her debut novel has received strongly positive reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Elle magazine. Livers is the owner of Mighty Sword, a design and writing studio in Chicago. She blogs at http://paulettelivers.com/journal/.

“Fiction is stone deaf to argument. . . . The bad thing about arguments: they carry the menace of neatness into fiction.”  —Eudora Welty, in her essay “Must the Novelist Crusade?”

The secret about writers that non-writers don’t know is that every time we start a new text, most of us feel as if we’re doing it for the first time. I begin from a place of confusion and move…

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I am thrilled to be sitting on a panel with Cara Hoffman next month at the Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago, June 7. Both of our novels deal with the personal costs of war, so we’ll have a lot to talk about with our moderator, Chicago Tribune Journalist Steve Mills.

Review by Rosemary Brown

hoffmanSergeant Lauren Clay has returned safely from her tour of duty in Iraq, and now she must reintegrate into the humdrum daily life of her hometown.  Be Safe I Love You (2014) is a bold look at one soldier’s struggle to balance the memories of war with her domestic life.  Hoffman uses free indirect discourse to great effect throughout the book, showing us through Lauren’s eyes some of the ways soldiers can react after war: the soldiers who, paradoxically, find God (“so they’d have someone to blame or someone to forgive them the unforgivable” (52)), and the large number of stateside suicides committed by ex-servicemen.  The proliferation of military language throughout the book suggests that Lauren struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder.  War is everywhere – in Lauren’s childhood memories, in her day to day language, even in church – the stained-glass windows reminding her of storyboards…

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