Friday, July 15, 2022

The Poet's House

The Poet's House
  The Poet's House
Author:  Jean Thompson
Publication Information:  Algonquin Books. 2022. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1643751565 / 978-1643751566

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Before I met Viridian, I didn't know any  poets, any real poets."

Favorite Quote:  "Carla, you need to get over the idea of supposed to be be. You need to develop your own standards, your likes and dislikes. That's part of critical thinking."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


A young woman Carla meets a group of poets and literaries. Carla has a learning disability and has always hovered in the shadow of that:
  • "I didn't want to feel like a problem everybody had to solve. You could get tired of all the encouragement."
  • "I wish I could live my life so that I didn't disappointment anyone."
  • "Because it makes me feel like a special needs child."
She chooses a career - landscaping - that allows her to use her strengths while not relying on what she considers her weakness. This job brings her to the home of poet Viridian. Here, Carla is introduced to a world she felt was always closed to her. "I don't read poems, I can't. I mean, I have a learning disability, I have trouble with reading even basic stuff. But when I heart you read them, it all made sense. It all ended up inside me."

So begins what I would call this coming of age story. Through these poet's, Carla is introduced to her own potential. Those around her do not see the attraction of the poet's house, but Carla is drawn more and more to that world for it opens possibilities she has never imagined for herself.

This story takes a while to settle into. There are many characters surrounding the poets. With the title focused on the poets, that is where I first focus my attention. I find it somewhat challenging to keep the characters and the relationships straight. This was even more so because it went into the poets' past and the past came forward to meet the present.

Eventually, I realized that it is possible just to let that aspect of the story flow. It takes a while to realize that the story is really Carla's. The rest ebbs and flows around her. That's when I settle into the story and follow Carla's journey of growth and self discovery. It's interesting that the character sounds so very young. She is in her twenties, but at times, she sounds considerably younger. The character development really shows the impact of conditioning on confidence and self-esteem.

I appreciate the fact that the book features a main character who is differently abled, and that the growth of the character is about the discovery of the possibilities given the right resources and mentors. In this way, Carla's youthful depiction adds to that discovery. The message of every child and every person being given the path to reach their potential is such an important one.

The fact that art - especially art with words - is the vehicle for Carla's growth of course resonates with this reader. I believe in the power of words to alter lives, and this book personifies that.

About the Book

New York Times bestselling author and former National Book Award finalist Jean Thompson has long been considered one of our most celebrated literary novelists. The author of fourteen works of fiction and the recipient of Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, Thompson is known for her graceful and beautifully crafted writing, which has been compared to both Alice Munro and Joyce Carol Oates. Algonquin is thrilled to welcome this beloved writer to our list with the publication of The Poet's House, (Algonquin Books; Publication Date: July 12, 2022; $26.95) a witty, delightfully entertaining novel about a young woman who gets swept up in the dramatic, passionate, and often insular world of writers. Both wry and wise, THE POET’S HOUSE is an insightful look at the literary scene – sometimes petty, sometimes transactional, sometimes transformative – and a coming-of-age story about the paths taken to find one’s true passion.

It has been a long, hot summer in Northern California, and Carla, in her early twenties and working as a landscaper, feels unsatisfied and aimless. When she is hired to work at the home of Viridian, an aging poet, both lauded and lovely, Carla is introduced to Viridian’s eccentric group of friends—and most importantly to the beauty and power of poetry—and her life changes drastically. She becomes enamored with Viridian – whose reputation has been defined by her infamous affair with a famous poet, Mathias – and the complicated dynamics of the art world. She develops a new hunger for words, and for life. As a fight emerges over the last cycle of poems Mathias wrote before he died, Carla gets drawn in. Does she even belong in this world? How much will she sacrifice for a group that may or may not see her as one of their own?

“After a lifetime of authorship, I wanted to pay tribute to the enterprise of writing itself, as well as cast an affectionate eye on some of the excesses and bad behavior that can accompany it,” explains Thompson. “With THE POET’S HOUSE, I hope I’ve achieved a balance between the comedy of the human goings-on, and poems themselves, which can inspire and transform us.” Thompson lives outside of Chicago and has instructed creative writing for decades, including the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Reed College, and Northwestern University.

"Jean Thompson is a national treasure,” says Dan Chaon. “She's the kind of writer who can make you laugh and cry at the same time. . . [her] work is full of insight and wisdom and a deadly keen eye for the foibles and self-deceptions of her characters. THE POET'S HOUSE is yet another indelible masterpiece in her oeuvre."

About The Author

Jean Thompson is the author of fourteen books of fiction, including the National Book Award finalist Who Do You Love, the NYT bestseller The Year We Left Home, and the NYT Notable Book Wide Blue Yonder. Her work has been published in the New Yorker, as well as dozens of other magazines, and anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize. She has been the recipient of Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, among other accolades, and has taught creative writing at numerous colleges around the country.

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