March 8, 2012 by Reader's Connection
On Thursday, March 22nd, at 7:30 p.m., novelist and story writer Patricia Henley will appear in IUPUI’s University Library Lilly Auditorium as part of the Rufus & Louise Reiberg Reading Series.
Set across the U.S. wherever loose communities of family and friends settle down, from hardscrabble rural Indiana to the Pacific Northwest, the 19 stories capture defining moments in otherwise ordinary lives. “The Secret of Cartwheels” is one of two tales about a large Catholic family, no doubt inspired by Henley’s own experience as the eldest of eight children. At age 13, narrator Roxanne and two of her younger sisters are sent off to a children’s home because their mother, an alcoholic, can’t cope with her many offspring. Roxanne, plagued by her inability to turn cartwheels and her habit of wetting the bed, dreams despite herself of the life she used to know. In “Cargo,” Roxanne reappears as an adult, settled in Montana. Her sister has called to say their mother is dying and the family is gathering. In attempting to decide whether she’ll go home, Roxie acknowledges that she’s left many places hoping for a new beginning, forgetting every time “that the things you hate the most are the things that travel with you.” Many of Henley’s characters live transient lives, work at menial jobs mechanic, fruit picker, waitress identify with the lyrics of country music and look to dope, booze and casual sex as palliatives. They recognize their weaknesses, but they don’t give up the game. The author’s sense of humor shines often . . . These stories, by a marvelous writer who speaks from both the heart and the head, are as comfortable as well-worn denim. — Publishers Weekly
In the River Sweet (2002)
The heroine, Ruth Anne Bond, is a woman of 50, living in Indiana; Johnny, her husband of nearly 30 years, is the proprietor of an upscale restaurant. Everything seems picture perfect until devoutly Catholic Ruth Anne learns that their only daughter, Laurel, is a lesbian. While she adjusts to this revelation (she is more upset by the Church’s intolerance than by the fact itself), her own secret past catches up with her: she is contacted by Tin, the illegitimate son she conceived with a blind Vietnamese boy when she was a teenager working in a convent in Saigon. The moral dilemmas attendant upon living with such a secret are sensitively treated and readers’ sympathies for each of the troubled characters will be fully engaged. Written from the point of view of Ruth Anne, the tale unfolds in her memories as she relives the events resulting from her stay in Vietnam. But she must also focus on her current problems, including marital discord and a violent attack on Laurel and her lover, Oceana. Though the plot moves back and forth in time a great deal, it is enhanced rather than weakened by this strategy. Henley, who is also a poet, balances long, stream-of-consciousness passages with short, potent sentences to wonderful effect, tilling the familiar ground of sexuality and spirituality with originality and grace. — Publishers Weekly
Other Heartbreaks (2011)
In this collection of elegant, moving stories, Patricia Henley explores the many bonds and betrayals among women: mothers, daughters, lovers, friends. Her characters, at once familiar and surprising, make their way through grief and discovery, revealing the power of their own hearts and of the landscapes where they reside. In “Rocky Gap,” June Peck and her family gather to honor their lost sister; in “Red Lily” the secrets and lies Jenny Rogers keeps and tells will change her life; in the haunting and hopeful “Ephemera,” Sophie March-Gonzales faces the worst kind of loss, and through that loss, finds a future to cherish. Don’t miss the first collection of new stories since 1992 from one of our most powerful writers — Engine Books
Here’s a video about Other Heartbreaks.
This reading is free and open to the public. IUPUI’s University Library is located at 755 W. Michigan St. Visitor parking is available in the North Street Garage, 819 W. North St. and the Vermont Street Garage, 1004 W. Vermont Street. Visitor parking will be validated. For more information about the series, contact Terry Kirts at firstname.lastname@example.org or (317) 274-8929.