Elizabeth McCracken

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Author Elizabeth McCracken joins us this week. We’ll be discussing her latest novel, BOWLAWAY, out February 5, 2019 with Ecco Press. 

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Elizabeth McCracken is the author of two short story collections, Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry and Thunderstruck; a memoir, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination; and three novels, The Giant’s House, Niagara Falls All Over Again, and BOWLAWAY, out February 5, 2019 with Ecco Press.

A graduate of the Writers Workshop of the University of Iowa, Elizabeth McCracken has been a finalist for the National Book Award and won the 2015 Story Prize, and has received grants, fellowships, and awards from The Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the American Academy in Berlin, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other places.

Elizabeth McCracken has taught creative writing at Western Michigan University, the University of Oregon, the University of Houston, and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She holds the James Michener Chair in Fiction and is Associate Director of the New Writers Project in the University of Texas Department of English.

You can keep up with her on Twitter.

Reviews —  BOWLAWAY (Ecco Press, February 5, 2019)

A RECOMMENDED BOOK OF 2019 FROM
Entertainment Weekly * O, The Oprah Magazine * Southern Living * BBC * Huffington Post * Lit Hub * Kirkus * Bustle * Publishers Weekly * BookRiot * Popsugar * Bookish * The Boston Globe * The Seattle Times

 “The brilliantly witty writer returns with her first novel in 18 years, an incisive and generous portrait of a New England clan who operate a candlepin bowling alley.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Loss and love revolve around a bowling alley established at the turn of the 20th century in a Massachusetts village by a woman who seems to have fallen from the sky in this quirky epic about family and fate.” (Boston Globe)

“In an enthralling, magical story that spans generations, award-winning writer McCracken imbues a candlepin alley with the ability to bowl over sexism.” (Ms. magazine)

“At the turn of the 20th century a woman is discovered unconscious and nearly frozen in a New England cemetery with only a bowling ball, a candlepin, and 15 pounds of gold on her. The National Book Award finalist’s exuberantly weird and wonderful book unravels the mystery.” (O, the Oprah Magazine)

“Elizabeth McCracken’s Bowlaway is so deliciously weird and wise and alive. It’s a page-turner set in a bowling alley, a grief-haunted and hope-raddled book, and a gloriously fresh paean to the ‘perversity of love.’ I loved itwhat a generous pour of humor and sorrow and wonder.” (Karen Russell)

“McCracken has one of the more distinctive literary sensibilities readers will likely encounter; playful, inventive, and fearless, she’s drawn to oddball characters and the eccentric fringes of American family life…. A playful, powerful meditation on the proposition that life itself is strange.” (Library Journal (starred review))

“”To tell a good tale, you need drama—and in this area, Bowlaway spares no expense…. McCracken’s prose is well-tooled, hilarious and tender, thoughtful and jocular. Her characters inhabit their world so completely, so bodily, that they could’ve truly existed.” (BookPage, starred review)

“[McCracken] is a beloved bard of the eccentric…. McCracken writes with exuberant precision, ingenious lyricism, satirical humor, and warmhearted mischief and delight…. This compassionate and rambunctious saga about love, grief, prejudice, and the courage to be one’s self chimes with novels by John Irving, Audrey Niffenegger, and Alice Hoffman. (Booklist (starred review))

“Stellar…. McCracken writes with a natural lyricism that sports vivid imagery and delightful turns of phrase. Her distinct humor enlivens the many plot twists that propel the narrative, making for a novel readers will sink into and savor.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“McCracken understands the vast variety of ways to be human. . . . Parents and children, lovers, brothers and sisters, estranged spouses, work friends and teammates all slam themselves together and fling themselves apart across the decades in the glorious clatter of McCracken’s unconventional storytelling.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

About BOWLAWAY (Ecco Press, February 5,  2019)

From the day she is discovered unconscious in a New England cemetery at the turn of the twentieth century—nothing but a bowling ball, a candlepin, and fifteen pounds of gold on her person—Bertha Truitt is an enigma to everyone in Salford, Massachusetts. She has no past to speak of, or at least none she is willing to reveal, and her mysterious origin scandalizes and intrigues the townspeople, as does her choice to marry and start a family with Leviticus Sprague, the doctor who revived her. But Bertha is plucky, tenacious, and entrepreneurial, and the bowling alley she opens quickly becomes Salford’s most defining landmark—with Bertha its most notable resident.

When Bertha dies in a freak accident, her past resurfaces in the form of a heretofore-unheard-of son, who arrives in Salford claiming he is heir apparent to Truitt Alleys. Soon it becomes clear that, even in her death, Bertha’s defining spirit and the implications of her obfuscations live on, infecting and affecting future generations through inheritance battles, murky paternities, and hidden wills.

In a voice laced with insight and her signature sharp humor, Elizabeth McCracken has written an epic family saga set against the backdrop of twentieth-century America. Bowlaway is both a stunning feat of language and a brilliant unraveling of a family’s myths and secrets, its passions and betrayals, and the ties that bind and the rifts that divide.  –Ecco Press