The Lost Saints of Tennessee
By Amy Franklin-Willis
(Grove Press, Paperback, 9780802120816, 352pp.)
Publication Date: February 2013
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"Pitch-perfect . . . In her powerful debut, Franklin-Willis expertly crafts a Southern novel that stands with genre classics like The Prince of Tides and Bastard out of Carolina. . . . A measured, slow-burning book, with complex, compelling characters and secrets. A beautiful novel from a talented new author, The Lost Saints of Tennessee proves that in great literature, as in life, we must always expect the unexpected."Bookpage
With enormous heart and dazzling agility, debut novelist Amy Franklin-Willis expertly mines the fault lines in one Southern working-class family. Driven by the soulful and intrepid voices of forty-two-year-old Ezekiel Cooper and his mother, Lillian, The Lost Saints of Tennessee journeys from the 1940s to the 1980s as it follows Zeke’s evolution from anointed son to honorable sibling to unhinged middle-aged man.
After Zeke loses his twin brother in a mysterious drowning and his wife to divorce, only ghosts remain in his hometown of Clayton, Tennessee. Zeke makes the decision to leave town in a final attempt to escape his pain, puts his two treasured possessionsa childhood copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tucker, his dead brother’s ancient doginto his truck, and heads east. He leaves behind two young daughters and his estranged mother, who reveals her own conflicting view of the Cooper family story in a vulnerable but spirited voice stricken by guilt over old sins as she clings to the hope that her family isn’t beyond repair.
When Zeke finds refuge with his sympathetic cousins in Virginia horse country, divine acts in the form of severe weather, illness, and a new romance collide, leading Zeke to a crossroads where he must decide the fate of his familyeither by clinging to the way life was or moving toward what life might be.
Written with abundant charm, warmth, and authority, The Lost Saints of Tennessee is the story of a unique brotherhood and a moving consideration of the ways grief can first devastate and then restore.
An eighth-generation Southerner, Amy Franklin-Willis was born in Birmingham, Alabama. In 2007, she received an Emerging Writer Grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation to complete The Lost Saints of Tennessee.