Synopses & Reviews
Mary Byrd Thornton could understand how a reporter couldn't resist the story: a nine-year-old boy sexually molested and killed on Mother's Day, 1966. A suspect to whom nothing would stick. A neighborhood riddled with secrets. No one, especially the bungling or complicit authorities, had been able to solve the crime. Now, thirty years later, the reporters call will reel a reluctant Mary Byrd from Mississippi back to Virginia where she must confront her family — and, once again, the murder's irremovable stain of tragedy.
Lisa Howorth's remarkable Flying Shoes is a work of fiction, but the murder is based on the still-unsolved case of her stepbrother, a front page story in the Washington Post. And yet this is not a crime novel; it is an honest and luminous story of a particular time and place in the South, where even calamitous weather can be a character, everyone has a story, and all are inextricably entwined. With a flamboyant cast, splendid dark humor, a potent sense of history, and a shocking true story at its heart, Flying Shoes is a rich and candid novel from a fresh new voice about family and memory and one woman's flight from a wounded past.
"Howorth's debut is a character-driven novel about family and friendship. Mississippian Mary Byrd Thornton is an ordinary person with one distinction: 40 years ago, her young stepbrother was murdered, and the killer was never found. One day she receives a call from a detective specializing in cold cases who tells her about new developments in the investigation and asks Mary Byrd to return to Richmond, Va., her childhood home, so her whole family can meet with him together in hopes of achieving 'closure.' Mary Byrd is a winsome character, and the novel revolves around her, but other characters hold similar charms. Teever Barr is a local quasi-homeless Vietnam vet who bumbles through life, yet manages to land on his feet. Hubard Mann Valentine Jr. is the gay heir to a chicken empire. And Jack Ernest is a rakish ne'er-do-well who has an on-again, off-again relationship with Mary Byrd. Howorth paints her characters with a colorful palette and sketches the details of daily life with a sure hand. The murder case remains in the background throughout most of the novel; the story is decidedly more of a character study than a page-turning thriller, but Howorth's characters are well worth getting to know. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Like all great stories from Mississippi, Flying Shoes never proceeds in a straight line. It twists and turns in order to notice what matters most in life, and then delivers us to exactly where we need to be. Those of us who have waited a long time for this book celebrate its arrival." Ann Patchett, author of This is the Story of a Happy Marriage and State of Wonder
"Lisa Howorth's dazzling verbal wit almost stops you in your tracks while you are flying along in this delicious prose. It is a scream — also heartbreaking, saucy, sassy, poignant, and triumphant. Mary Byrd is a bold, kooky, quirky character I won't forget. It has been a long time since I read a novel with such charm, generosity, humor, daring and brillance. It is just splendid." Bobbie Ann Mason, author of In Country and The Girl is the Blue Beret
"Lisa Howorth's Flying Shoes braids a love know of new South, old South, and haunted South that catches at the reader's heart, even as the humor and sadness of her rollicking prose has us slipping off our own shoes and moving to the music in her voice. Flying Shoes is exhilarating and brave, full of love and grief and the journeys we all make from past to present." Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Quiet Dell and Lark and Termite
"[A] buzz-worthy debut." Booklist
"Howorth writes with real flair....A memorable mosaic of a place, a time and a good-hearted woman at midlife, facing crises old and new." Associated Press
From the cofounder of Oxford's legendary Square Books — a stunning debut novel set in Mississippi in 1996, based on the real-life, long-unsolved murder of the authors young stepbrother.
About the Author
Lisa Howorth was born in Washington, D.C., where her family has lived for four generations. In Oxford, Mississippi, she and her husband opened Square Books (Publishers Weekly
's 2013 Bookstore of the Year) in 1979 and raised their three children. She received the Governors Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1996 and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship in 2007. Her writing has appeared in Garden & Gun
and the Oxford American
. This is her first novel.