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Straight Up Paperback – September 19, 2006
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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From Publishers Weekly
Georgia Ella Bishop's life screams "wasted potential." The daughter of a great jazz pianist and a famous news correspondent, she has what it takes to combine her mother's talent and her father's celebrity into one extraordinary life. Her alcoholism, however, thwarts these ambitions even before she can imagine them, and by the time she reaches her mid-30s, all of her chances seem to be used up. When Georgia moves from Baltimore to Lexington, Ky., to make one last attempt to straighten out her life, her social justice–obsessed uncle, her fashion-obsessed cousin and her loving but estranged husband are there to help. Samson, author of the Christy Award–winning Songbird and several other faith-based novels, pulls few punches in this sobering yet sanguine account of God's patience, mercy and eternal optimism in the face of human folly. Samson's writing is characteristically crisp and vibrant—cutting quickly to the heart of her characters and their crises with prose that is emotionally resonant but rarely sentimental. Readers may find events in Georgia's life, particularly her astoundingly bad choices and the surprising consequences she experiences, hard to believe. Still, despite the extremes to which Georgia goes, in Samson's capable hands she becomes an everywoman in whom readers are likely to see at least a glimpse of themselves. (Sept. 19)
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Praise for Straight Up
“Like an expert barrista, Lisa Samson take bits and pieces of her characters’ lives and mixes them into a story that is fascinating and profound. Loss can lift you up…or destroy you. Straight Up shows both options and then lets you decide. Which will it be? This is one good book!”
–Roxanne Henke, author of After Anne, With Love, Libby, and other books in the Coming Home to Brewster series
“What if we chose differently in life? Straight Up is pure Lisa Samson–original, raw, and laced with grace. As always, Lisa’s characters came to life in my imagination, becoming my friends. This book made me cry and also allowed me hope. What a treasure.”
–Robin Lee Hatcher, bestselling author of A Carol for Christmas
“Lisa Samson’s writing is an extravagant gift to her readers. I am eternally amazed at the benevolence that spills so generously from her pen. She is not only a compassionate writer, but a young poet with an old soul, a woman that uses her writing as a dance in which her readers can revel.”
–Patricia Hickman, author of Earthly Vows and Whisper Town
In Straight Up, Lisa Samson draws us into the joys and consequences of this free-will thing called Choice. It is a story that is at once both tough and tender, with Samson exhibiting unusually keen insight into human nature–the longings of the heart, the failings of the flesh, the need for redemption. A powerful read, too important to miss.
–Ann Tatlock, awarding-winning author of Things We Once Held Dear
“Lisa Samson is one of my favorite authors. Her characterization is always brilliant, and Straight Up is no exception. Samson just keeps getting better and better.”
–Colleen Coble, author of Fire Dancer
Top customer reviews
A unique, gripping novel, Straight Up breaks a lot of CBA "rules." The main characters are Georgia--a jazz musician who has neglected her "gift," and Fairly--an interior designer. They were cousins and abandoned by their parents through death. They were subsequently abandoned by their spouses. Fairly's died and Georgia's "found religion."
Both main characters went "looking for love in all the wrong places." Georgia found comfort in alchohol, and Fairly dealt with her loss through her relationships with men. Georgia continues to deteriorate until tragedy occurs. She entered "pink." Without giving you a spoiler, I'll just say that it's a very interesting place where Georgia learns a lot about herself. A minor character, Clarissa, was interspersed throughout the story, but her point of view was in the third person, rather than the first person like Georgia and Fairly's point of view. Clarissa was adopted and somewhat detached from life. She lived in a chronic survival mode and was pretty much rejected and abused by everyone. I felt so sorry for her.
For the longest time I wondered how Clarissa would finally connect with the rest of the "cast," but I won't spoil it and tell you how that happens. Let me just say that it's one of those endings that leaves you thinking for hours.
Straight Up was a gourmet meal for my finicky pallet. Let me explain why. The author gives you a blend of varying dates and characters to begin with to whet your appetite. Now I have to say at first this confused me, but once I got the feel and texture of each main character I savored the meal. Parts of Straight Up had me grieving, other parts had me wanting to slap the characters, yet I also admired them for being honest with themselves even if they weren't as honest with others. A-hem. It's called pride.
In Straight Up, the author "told it like it is." No fluff here. She gave me a glimpse into the lives of some pretty heartbroken people who looked okay--for the most part--to the rest of the world. I cared so much about them that I entered their lives. I must say the story made total sense to me. I loved how the author slipped a bit of God's perspective into the mix. What an incredibly creative way to explain things too difficult to understand outside of Christ, and then introduce Him in a way that actually attracts the reader. The author literally prepared some wounded souls for the banquet table, and you ate right along with them.
Straight Up is real, it's honest, and it's one of those life-changing stories that sticks with you for a long time. The message? You can't go back and fix the past. But you can make a difference today. I enjoyed every minute of this insightful story. Straight Up comes with my highest recommendation.
Talented 32-year-old jazz musician Georgia Bishop has chosen the bottle over her music, rejecting her handsome husband Sean for a life of sitting alone at a bar and drinking away her potential. Her cousin, Fairly Godfrey, has her own troubles: at 26 she has lost her parents and her husband is hovering at the brink of death, and the solace of vintage clothing and antique furniture isn't enough to fill the gaping holes. The seemingly stable Uncle Geoffrey ("Uncle G") tries to glue the cousins back together when the trajectory of their lives intersects in Samson's hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. But will his love, the strength of his faith and his gentle acceptance be enough? The consequences of choices don't always have happy endings, and admirably, Samson portrays this without flinching as Fairly inadvertently brings things to a tragic climax.
In Samson's fictional world, food and coffee are the great consolers, and readers will salivate over the delicious culinary details throughout. Della-Faye bakes scrumptious peach cobbler and to-die-for fried chicken at the restaurant down the street, and Solo, a Congolese refugee, is quick to whip up an espresso when his friend Fairly is feeling low.
Samson is the veteran author of 18 books (including WOMEN'S INTUITION and CLUB SANDWICH) and is not afraid to take risks in her writing. Characters come in a rainbow of ethnicities, and Samson treats interracial couples in a matter-of-fact way rather than making race a point of tension --- something welcome and still fairly unusual in faith fiction.
The best moments revolve around Samson's portrayal of the community of faith --- a sometimes loose conglomeration of the walking wounded, the displaced, the neglected and abused, and the artistic misfits. There's quite a bit of the supernatural thrown in, especially toward the end, but nothing preachy or cliché. Book discussion groups will be delighted at the opportunities for debate on topics such as alcoholism, widowhood, race, caring for the wounded and the abused, medical ethics, marriage and spiritual calling, using or wasting our talents and gifts. What comes powerfully across is the potential each of us has to help change the life of another for the better. What also comes across is our ability to choose to reject this help.
One reason I love reading Samson's novels is her fresh and invigorating prose, which is in full evidence here. Lines such as "Twenty-two years later and the day she died still feels like stepping on a nail" provoke an almost physical reaction from the reader. Tropical fish "tinsel up a tank" and artists flow through a place "like warmed butterscotch over ice cream." On fried chicken: "That first bite is as good as a blanket out of the dryer after sledding or a gulp of cold Coke after a day of yard work." Hair is "rivered with silver." In describing herself, Fairly notes, "People see me as a birdbath. I am a well." I could read for pages for nothing else but the promise of more descriptions like these.
The constant switching back and forth between points of view and time periods are sometimes confusing and choppy, but hang with them: the characters are strong enough to move the book to its redemptive yet unsentimental conclusion, and the elegant prose will keep the pages turning.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby
What stood out at first was the beauty of Ms. Samson's prose. Absolutely amazing wordsmithing. Her metaphors are fresh and evocative. Once I got over the lovely writing, I began to appreciate the realness of the characters. Lisa didn't sugar-coat their failings and insecurities. These are people I can relate to. I think we all can.
I stayed up into the wee hours to finish this novel because I had to know what choices these folks would make. While I wondered about them, somehow Ms. Samson had me questioning what choices I would make in my own life and how the consequences would affect my future and those who love me. Straight Up has me clinging to grace in a way I've always longed to.
Straight Up had me laughing and crying within the same paragraph. This is truly a work of art, both because of it's literary merit and because it does what a great novel should ... cause the reader self-examination.
Do I recommend this book? Straight up!
Most recent customer reviews
Many people have mentioned some of the incredibly bad choices these characters make, and...Read more
Georgia and Fairly are unforgetable characters - their relatives and friends and...Read more