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New Trade Paper
Available May 2014
Guests on Earthby Lee Smith
Synopses & Reviews
Evalina Toussaint, the orphaned child of an exotic dancer in New Orleans, is just thirteen when she is admitted to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. The year is 1936, and the mental hospital is under the direction of the celebrated psychiatrist Robert S. Carroll. His innovative program of treatment for mental and nervous disorders and addictions is based on exercise, diet, art, and occupational therapies--and experimental shock therapy.
Evalina finds herself in the company of some notable fellow patients, including Zelda Fitzgerald, estranged wife of F. Scott, who takes the young piano prodigy under her wing. Evalina becomes the accompanist for the musical programs at the hospital. This provides privileged insight into the events that transpire over the next twelve years, culminating in a tragic fire--its mystery unsolved to this day--that killed nine women in a locked ward, Zelda among them. At all costs, Evalina listens, observes, remembers--and tells us everything.
Guests on Earth is a mesmerizing novel about a time and a place where creativity and passion, theory and medicine, fact and fiction, are luminously intertwined by a writer at the height of her craft.
It's 1936 when orphaned thirteen-year-old Evalina Toussaint is admitted to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, a mental institution known for its innovative treatments for nervous disorders and addictions. Taken under the wing of the hospital's most notable patient, Zelda Fitzgerald, Evalina witnesses the cascading events leading up to the tragic fire of 1948 that killed nine women in a locked ward, Zelda among them.
Author Lee Smith has created, through her artful blending of fiction and fact, a mesmerizing novel about a world apart--a time and a place where creativity and passion, theory and medicine, tragedy and transformation, are luminously intertwined.
"The insane are always mere guests on earth, eternal strangers carrying around broken decalogues that they cannot read." --F. Scott Fitzgerald
Evalina Toussaint, orphaned child of an exotic dancer in New Orleans, is just thirteen when she is admitted to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. The year is 1936, and the mental hospital is under the direction of the celebrated psychiatrist Dr. Robert S. Carroll, whose innovative treatment for nervous disorders and addictions is based upon fresh air, diet, exercise, gardening, art, dance, music, theater, and therapies of the day such as rest cures, freeze wraps, and insulin shock. Talented Evalina is soon taken under the wing of the doctor's wife, a famous concert pianist, and eventually becomes the accompanist for all musical programs at the hospital, including the many dances and theatricals choreographed by longtime patient Zelda Fitzgerald.
About the Author
Lee Smith is the author of sixteen previous books of fiction, including the bestselling novels Fair and Tender Ladies and The Last Girls, winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. Also the recipient of the 1999 Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina.&
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