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New Novel Features Lexington and W&L

You might recognize a few places around Lexington and Washington and Lee University in a new novel, The Widow’s Season, by Laura Brodie, visiting assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee.

Scheduled for publication on June 2 by Berkley Books (part of Penguin Books), the book is part ghost story, part marriage story, and is set in a town called Jackson (Lexington), with a river and college campuses and many recognizable sites.

“The story was inspired by a chapter from my doctoral dissertation at the University of Virginia on widows in literature,” said Brodie. “That chapter focused on husbands who fake their deaths in order to spy on their wives, something that shows up a lot in 17th century drama.”
Publisher’s Weekly reviewed the book in April 2009 and observed the author was “expertly walking the line between reality and fantasy, life and death, heartache and love, leaving readers hoping for the best and prepared for the worst—without ever really knowing the truth—until the final five pages.”

The Widow’s Season has had some early success. It won the 2005 Faulkner-Wisdom award for best novel-in-progress—a national contest sponsored by a New Orleans literary society. German and Dutch publishers have also purchased the book and it will appear in at least three languages.

The book will be released nationwide at Barnes and Noble, Borders and other book stores. Brodie will start a tour with a reading and a party at Lexington’s Books and Co., on Friday, June 5, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. She is also scheduled for a reading during W&L’s Parents’ Weekend in the fall of 2009.
“We in the English department feel very lucky to work with Laura Brodie,” says Lesley Wheeler, head of the English department. “As well as being an accomplished writer, she is an extremely popular teacher who covers an impressive range of fields, from Jane Austen to 20th-century poetry.  I remember hearing her tell the ghost story years ago that eventually blossomed into this novel, so I feel particularly excited about its publication.”

Brodie, whose first book Breaking Out: VMI and the Coming of Women was published in 2000, is working on a third book that is due for publication by HarperCollins in April 2010. It will feature Lexington in more obvious ways because it is a memoir of one year when she homeschooled her daughter Julia for the fifth grade. She says that every page of that book will be filled with Lexington places and people — Waddell, Lylburn Downing, VMI, W&L, the Lexington coffee shop, the Orchardside Yarn Cottage and Mark Cline’s Escape from Dinosaur Kingdom.