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Guests on Earth: A Novel Hardcover – October 15, 2013
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“[An] elegant historical novel . . . Lee Smith is an assured and accomplished writer, and her use of Zelda as a subject in Guests on Earth is brilliant . . . This is a carefully researched, utterly charming novel. By the time you finish it, you fall in love with these fascinating lives, too.” ―The Washington Post
“Guests on Earth is a mesmerizing novel about a time and place where creativity and passion, theory and medicine, fact and fiction, are luminously intertwined.” ―BookPage
“Indeed, most of the high spirited, rebellious, outspoken women who populate Guests on Earth would not now be considered insane at all. Smith’s imaginative, layered story illuminates the complexity of their collective plight―to be put in towers until they had no choice but to behave―and rescues them one by one.” ―The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“[An] engaging and engrossing novel . . . Smith’s well-developed characters, rich historical detail and easy prose create a novel that some may call her best yet, and which it just may be.” ―Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Those who enjoyed Smith’s previous work (e.g., Fair and Tender Ladies; The Last Girls) will certainly appreciate this absorbing book, as will those interested in the history of treating mental illness in the United States and fans of Southern or Appalachian fiction.” ―Library Journal
“With Guests on Earth, Lee Smith shines new light on a shadowy, complex subject . . . She offers a broader historical perspective--and with it, a captivating, inimitable voice.” ―The Raleigh News and Observer
“Treading the fine line between sanity and insanity, this historical novel imagines the 12 years proceeding the 1948 fire that engulfed a North Carolina mental hospital and killed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s estranged wife, Zelda.” ―Ms. Magazine
“Engaging . . . Touching.” ―Publishers Weekly
“This is Lee Smith at her powerful best, writing the South she knows through the eyes of a woman who lived it.” ―Adriana Trigiani, author of Big Stone Gap and The Shoemaker's Wife
“In Guests on Earth Lee Smith gives evidence again of the grace and insight that distinguish her work. Her characters are realized with singular intensity, the most vivid interior life, and flawless dialogue. Reading Lee Smith ranks among the great pleasures of American fiction.” ―Robert Stone, author of Death of the Black-Haired Girl and Dog Soldiers
Top Customer Reviews
Evalina experiences her coming of age in this lovely place under the tutelage of the well-known Dr. and Mrs. Carroll where she also meets the infamous and mercurial Zelda Fitzgerald who undergoes multiple treatments in the ensuing years. Evalina becomes a piano protege of Mrs. Carroll and it is her music that gives her strength, comforts and sustains her during many difficult times. Highland Hospital becomes her true home and its staff and patients her family as the years go by.
The novel is about one young woman's search for her own sanity, identity and independence as much as it is about life and mental illness during this time in history. Well researched historical details blend fact with fiction creating a story and memorable characters that I can't stop thinking about.
The focus of this well-written story is not on either Zelda Fitzgerald or the fire of 1948 that kills nine of the patients at Highland Hospital, but about the nature and cycle of mental health and the continuum of wellness. Some aspects of the treatment of those judged mentally ill may seem both bizarre and/or inhumane, and the accepted practices then no longer used (lobotomy, insulin shock, etc.) as more becomes known about what works or not. But, truly, as one character so aptly states about clinical depression, "Nobody understands it..."
I really liked this book and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in what life at an upscale mental institution in the 1930s might have been like.Read more ›
While Ms. Smith may be the high priestess of comedy at times, not so here. She achieves high seriousness in her latest novel as her many characters including both the narrator and Mrs.Read more ›
This is the only book I've read by this author, so I don't know if this is just her style or she was trying to make a point by writing this way. It's possible that she purposefully made her narrator remote to show the emotional isolation of mental illness. (And despite repeated recoveries and high functionality, the narrator is definitely not working from the standard playbook, as evidenced by the final scene of her waiting in her basement apartment for the lover she is convinced will find his way to her.) At any rate, if that was the author's intent it was an interesting exercise, but I like to feel something for the main character besides puzzlement. In sum, it's fine, but I needed more of a connection in order to love this book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very good read! I loved the characters and setting! Go Lee Smith!Published 10 days ago by Amazon Customer
I really liked this book. It was engaging, nicely written and the historical and semi historical characters were quite interesting. Just read this.Published 28 days ago by Kfarver
My first Lee Smith book, and now I am on my fourth. Her writing style is mesmerizing, puts you completely into the setting and era.Published 1 month ago by Jill jones
I just started reading this but I do love Lee Smiths books and I know I will love this one. It sounds so interesting. I will update later as I get farther along in the book.Published 2 months ago by Carol Clasen
I really enjoyed this book and will probably read more from this author. Some things the main character experiences and sees are a bit shocking. Read morePublished 3 months ago by JB9