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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Susan Rebecca White returns with A Soft Place to Land

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When Susan Rebecca White's debut novel Bound South came out last year, she told Culture Surfing, "It’s funny to me that I did write such a Southern book. I was so desperate to escape the South when I first left for college, and I felt as if I really came into myself once I did, first by attending Brown University, then by moving to San Francisco where I lived for five years. And yet … the South pulls you back, whether you want it to or not."

White's second novel, A Soft Place to Land, captures that Southern exodus in the story of two sisters, Ruthie and Julia, who find themselves separated and uprooted from Atlanta after the death of their parents. The story spans both coasts, from San Francisco and Berkeley to the neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

Clearly informed by her own travels, White does a fine job of setting these scenes and capturing the distinct qualities of these cities, but White is first and foremost a writer of character. The relationship that develops between Ruthie and Julia as they age and move around is complex, filled with ambivalent emotions of jealousy and loyalty. The novel hits it's high points when White slips directly into their voices for epistolary forms like  long letter or a chapter from Julia's memoir.

Last year, White's debut novel happened to be published on the same day as another Atlantan's debut, The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  The Help turned into a runaway blockbuster, staying on top of the bestseller lists for most of the year. Tonight at the Carter Center, Stockett will be on hand to present and praise White when she reads from and signs copies of A Soft Place to Land.

Susan Rebecca White reads on Wed., April 14 at 7 pm at the Carter Center Day Chapel.

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