Oh, THAT Mary Sojourner!
AUTHOR: SONNIE SUSSILLO
Mary Sojourner is coming to town. She is one of three writers who will be presenting workshops and an evening reading the first weekend in October. So I set out to see who Mary Sojourner is, and what she writes.
A trip to the Silver City Library turned up her contributions to two publications of essays, short stories and poetry. Plus one book of fiction, Going Through Ghosts. I brought all three home.
In Comeback Wolves, published in 2005, she contributed “Bones”, a bit of a story from the perspective of the wolf. And I found Officer Magdalena, White Shell Woman and Me in Walking the Twilight, Women Writers of the Southwest, from 1994. She’s in excellent company, in my reading experience: Sharman Apt Russell, Craig Childs, Barbara Kingsolver, Terry Tempest Williams, Rick Bass all contributed to one or the other of these two collections.
Three pages into Going Through Ghosts, her second novel, published in 2010, I realized I had read this story before. And loved it! So THAT’s Mary Sojourner!!
And by the last lines of chapter 1 and the opening paragraph of chapter 2, I knew why I loved it and knew that I had to read it all over again:
“Springtime,” he said, “the prickly pear grow cherry-red flowers, and in the August rains, you can smell how old the earth is.”
“It continued to startle him how such a hard land could be so tender.”
Although the story is set in a small desert town in gambling Nevada, these lines express my own experience of the high desert that is the setting for my adopted hometown.
The story draws together several interesting characters, all damaged but kicking. Each of them is dealing with their own ghosts from lives past; in Maggie’s case, though, there is the addition of a real ghost in the present.
It’s the magical realism of the living ghost around which the author builds much of this story that captured me—twice. It’s also the language of the desert that is the “earth” of the story and the new-to-me language of the gambling life that sparks throughout. Plus, threads of aging, and Vietnam-induced PTSD ring true. And finally, there is the loving energy of women together: “The day eased forward, carried on a current of gossip and laughter, of silence and the stories women tell each other in the absence of men.”
I did a little more research on Ms. Sojourner to see what she’s up to now. I found a great interview with her on the event of her new novel, 29. You can read that interview here:
She will be doing a full-day workshop on Saturday, October 4 on The Scalpel and The Thread: A Master Workshop for Writers. She knows what she’s about; I read through a number of her posts on her writing/editing blog: http://www.breakthroughwriting.net/ . I’ve now subscribed to her blog and look forward to reading her writing tips regularly. She’ll also be reading her work on Saturday evening, along with Denise Low and Elise Stuart.
I can’t wait – to get my hands on 29, to hear her read, and to meet her in person!