Friday, October 11, 2013

GADLY PLAIN A Novel by J. Michael Dew

Trade Paperback
224 pgs / 5.5" x 8.5"
Illustrated: original drawings by Raw Spoon
ISBN: 9780981892993
Category: Christian Fiction/ Literature
Price: $14.00

What do you get when you mix an orphaned girl just coming of age, a grieving, pain-filled family, a rural Kentucky barnyard, a donkey who has lived since Adam and has stories to tell, a mentally handicapped man, and an apocalyptic climax? Happily, you get a literary novel that maintains its lyrical language and dramatic pace from the first to the last page and leaves you thinking, smiling, wondering, looking at this life and the next with eyes to see in fresh, new ways.

When a young girl's father dies, and her mother abandons her at her paternal grandparents' home in Kentucky, no one helps her cope with the cloud of death that hovers over the family ... until she wanders down to the neighbor's barn. There in an earthy, unlikely haven, vistas open to Spring-baby that transcend time and place and even death.

For readers who love well-written fiction that is both personal and sweeping in scope. If you enjoy novels with literary merit that show the intersection of the grit and grief and glory of life on earth with the presence and power and persuasion of the supernatural and heavenly ~ you'll likely be enthralled by this story.

At the back of the book is a discussion guide for reading groups and book clubs.

Creative drawings by Raw Spoon, at the head of each chapter, bring visual life and added sensory dimension to the experience of reading this book.

J. Michael Dew lives with his wife and three young daughters in Atlanta, Georgia. He was born and raised in Warren County, Pennsylvania. He earned a B.A. in English from Lock Haven University and an MA and PhD in Literature and Criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is an Associate Professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College where he is also the Honors Coordinator for the Dunwoody campus. In his spare time he enjoys being a husband and a dad. And fishing. He loves a glinty, trouty stream.

Margie's Comments: I enjoyed reading this coming-of-age novel about Spring-baby and how she was left to deal with her young father's death. When she's abandoned by her mother with no explanation of why, Spring-baby is virtually alone with her own grief. The grandparents her mother left her with are dealing with their own extreme grief and have no idea how to help their granddaughter. Through the unlikely friendship with the neighbor and his donkey's stories, Spring-baby learns much more than she could have if she'd been left totally on her own. The donkey's stories told in the neighbors back-woodsy southern accent and vernacular hit home in ways reading the Bible never could have appealed to a twelve-year-old girl. The characters are well-drawn, the story follows a natural progression once the reader gets into the rhythm of the story. Definitely a book I can recommend to those who love a touch of the unusual in their reading.

1. This story is remarkably creative yet feels warmly authentic. One would think you have experienced it yourself.
Dew: I suppose I could say that Gadly Plain began for me the day, at age nine, when I found out my father had passed away. It is, I suppose, a working out of that sadness. The story is based on conclusions I reached after years of introspection. I will admit, however: The German woman in the beginning is not a made up character. She was real. I met her as did my sister. But nobody else remembers her presence.

2. Some authors take years to write a book while others take only months. What was your process for writing Gadly Plain, and how long did it take?
Dew: To give readers a practical answer, one afternoon, I went out and purchased a large piece of cardstock paper on which I began to diagram plot points. The diagram grew to include characters, biblical references, and other details I felt were important to the story. I used this diagram of sorts as an outline, keeping it in front of me each time I sat down to move the story along. All in all, it took a year to complete a first draft. Copies of that draft then went to professionals in the fields of theology, speech pathology, and creative writing. Once I got their very valuable feedback, I revised the manuscript then sent that version to another set of readers. It took a dogged effort, but it was worth it.

3. Tell us about the title of your novel. Why did you choose such an enigmatic title as Gadly Plain and what is its significance?
Dew: The title was discovered on a Pennsylvania back road somewhere between Interstate 80 and Warren. I was driving home from graduate school under a cloud-splotched sky, and I happened to pass one of those roads that was probably a driveway but was nevertheless given the distinction of a name: Gadly Plain. It was a rutted dirt road that more than likely led to a simple hunting camp or some far-flung place of retreat and rest. I didn't stop to inspect. Instead, I made a mental note of the catchy name, and when I pulled off the road to fish for trout further into my journey (as was my happy custom), I jotted down the name in my journal, thinking this would make a great title for a book. This was years ago. It took a lot of time since to construct my own getaway. Much of that time was spent learning why I needed to do so in the first place.

"Gadly Plain" could be "way away" or "heaven" or "paradise" or "across the rainbow bridge" or "in the bosom of God" or "Narnia." I didn't want to be too specific, thereby robbing the reader of his/her ability to imagine Gadly Plain, and I wanted to be (in my humble way) poetic. Gadly almost sounds like Godly, and the existence of heaven is a "plain" truth - nothing complicated, something a child can understand, no need for an advanced degree in theology, etc.

4. What themes are you interested in writing about next?
Dew: At least since the dawn of postmodernism, writers have largely been asserting, in various and sundry ways, the viewpoint that all values are relative, that everything is and should be deconstructed. I know I am generalizing here, but I feel this to be a safe assessment of modern literature. I believe in taking up the call issued by Wendell Berry who says that an author's duty today is to rescue some values from the dustbin of relativism and go about bravely building meaning and relevance in a world at direct odds with them both. The themes I'm interested in exploring are themes that do just that.

5. Reading this succinct but sweeping novel, one cannot doubt you believe in the over-arching story of the Bible and the final victory of good over evil. Will you share something of your personal faith?
Dew: I am deeply devoted to Christ and strive daily to be the man he wants me to be.

"As a reader, it's not often I come across a small literary miracle, an unexpected gift. Gadly Plain is that type of book. It sweeps us up into the rich yet simple world of an orphaned girl and a mysterious donkey, a world both familiar and mystical, melancholic and full of hope. Do yourself a favor and open this gift.." ~ Eric Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Fireproof and October Baby

"Gadly Plain is a book about sorrow, regret, and grief--but it is also about the fleeting spirit of childhood and the choices we make to believe in the stories that give us hope. Gentle and reflective, this is a story about stories and the incredible power they hold to heal and redeem broken hearts." ~ ForeWord Reviews

On Amazon
From the Publisher


1 comment:

J. Michael Dew said...

Thank you so much for featuring Gadly Plain, and thank you to those who decide to add the novel to your collection. I hope it lands well with you!
J. Michael Dew