Today’s featured book is one that has been hiding on Pippa, my Kindle, since July 2014. I think it’s about time to bring it out. Flying Shoes, by Lisa Howorth, is a book about family and memory and one woman’s flight from a wounded past.
Intro: Mary Byrd Thornton knew that breaking things was not a good, adult response to getting sudden, scary news about a terrible thing in the past, a thing buried with the dead and kicked to the curb of consciousness; but that was what she’d done anyway.
She’d been unloading the dishwasher, killing time until school let out and half-listening to NPR. The IRA had broken a truce and bombed London, unwanted rape babies—“enfants mauvais souvenir,” NPR called them—from the massacres in Rwanda over the past two years were abandoned and dying, some scientist was predicting global chaos, calling it Y2K—planes would be falling from the sky and subway trains colliding in the year 2000. Basically it was the usual news; what she and her brothers called every new day’s headlines: More Dead Everywhere. It always seemed like the world was a kitchen full of leaking gas just waiting for the careless match.
Teaser: But too much contentment made Mary Byrd discontent; too much comfort made her uncomfortable. She wasn’t much used to happiness and security. Before her children, there’d been a medical student she liked because he did little but study, fish, and shoot ducks (p. 73).
Synopsis: 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 reporter’s 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.
What do you think? Should I resurrect this one off the dark corners of my Kindle? Would you keep reading?