The Poet’s House

Jean Thompson. Algonquin, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-64375-156-6

Thompson (A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl) intriguingly explores the contours of the literary world through the eyes of an outsider. Carla Sawyer, a restless Northern California landscaper in her 20s, is stretched thin by conflicting advice. Her divorced mother urges her to either get a hospital job or grow legal marijuana, while her boyfriend remarks that her green thumb remains underappreciated. Carla’s world broadens when she begins work in the gardens of renowned poet Viridian Boone. Carla doesn’t know anything about poetry, but Viridian opens her home to the young woman, who winds up mingling with an eccentric coterie of poets, writers, and artists. As Carla grows closer to Viridian and the bohemian group, she develops a strong appreciation for poetry. Soon, Carla becomes caught up in conversations with Viridian about Viridian’s former lover, Mathias, who died by suicide many years earlier, after he became famous for his love poems about Viridian. Thompson’s talents for immersive storytelling and sharp characters are on brilliant display, particularly in her portrayal of Carla’s longing for something greater, and of Viridian’s conflicted feelings about Mathias’s work. The author’s fans will savor this. (July)
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