Please note the time change. The reading begins at 7PM. Ten-year-old Helen and her summer guardian, Flora, are isolated together in Helen's decaying family house while her father is doing secret war work in Oak Ridge during the final months of World War II. At three Helen lost her mother, and the beloved grandmother who raised her has just died. A fiercely imaginative child, Helen is desperate to keep her house intact with all its ghosts and stories. Flora, her late mother's twenty-two-year old first cousin, who cries at the drop of a hat, is ardently determined to do her best for Helen. Their relationship and its fallout, played against a backdrop of a lost America, will haunt Helen for the rest of her life. This darkly beautiful novel about a child and a caretaker in isolation evokes shades of The Turn of the Screw and also harks back to Godwin's memorable novel of growing up, The Finishing School. With its house on top of a mountain and a child who may be a bomb that will one day go off, Flora tells a story of love, regret, and the things we can't undo. It will stay with readers long after he last page is turned.
About the Author
Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including A Mother and Two Daughters, The Good Husband, Father Melancholy’s Daughter, and Evensong. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer: Journals, 1961--1963, the first of two volumes, edited by Rob Neufeld. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Woodstock, New York. Visit her website at www.gailgodwin.com.
Praise for Flora"I’ve long thought of Gail Godwin as a present-day George Eliot — our keenest observer of lifelong, tragically unwitting decisions. Helen’s story, which she tells us when she is an older woman, is focused on the summer when she was a precocious ten-year-old. Her mother is dead, and the 'haunted little girl' has more recently lost her grandmother. Flora (the first cousin of Helen’s late mother) is looking after Helen for the summer. Helen seems much smarter and more sophisticated than her unwanted, twenty-two-year-old companion from Alabama; Helen believes that Flora is the one who needs looking after. 'Remorse is wired straight to the heart,' the older Helen tells us. Gail Godwin’s Flora is similarly wired — straight to the heart. The events of Helen’s haunted and most formative summer are perfectly plotted to unhinge her; what happens to Helen and Flora will make Helen the woman (and the writer) she becomes. (Helen tells us that a collection of her stories is 'about failed loves.') Flora is a novel as word-perfect and taut as an Alice Munro short story; like Munro, Godwin has flawlessly depicted the kind of fatalistic situation we can encounter in our youth — one that utterly robs us of our childhood and steers the course for our adult lives. This is a luminously written, heartbreaking book." —John Irving
"Godwin, celebrated for her literary finesse, presents a classic southern tale galvanic with decorous yet stabbing sarcasm and jolting tragedy.... Godwin’s under-your-skin characters are perfectly realized, and the held-breath plot is consummately choreographed. But the wonder of this incisive novel of the endless repercussions of loss and remorse at the dawn of the atomic age is how subtly Godwin laces it with exquisite insights into secret family traumas, unspoken sexuality, class and racial divides, and the fallout of war while unveiling the incubating mind of a future writer." —Booklist, starred review
"Unsparing yet compassionate; a fine addition to Godwin’s long list of first-rate fiction bringing 19th-century richness of detail and characterization to the ambiguities of modern life." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"[A] stirring and wondrous novel from Godwin…. [her] thoughtful portrayal of their boredom, desires, and the eventual heartbreak of their summer underscores the impossible position of children, who are powerless against the world and yet inherit responsibility for its agonies."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)