Tag Archives: historical fiction

The Civil War in Washington: Two Perspectives


Join me and Jeff Richards at Upshur Street Books (827 Upshur Street, N.W.) on Tuesday, July 19 at 7:00 p.m., when we discuss our respective views on the Battle of Fort Stevens, in which Confederate General Jubal Early nearly marched into Washington, D.C.

Fort Stevens is located in what is now the Brightwood neighborhood of D.C., where most of my my novel Up the Hill to Home takes place, and the battle is described in the chapter “Jubal’s March”.  Jeff’s Civil War novel Open Country visits the aftermath of the battle, which includes an appearance by “Uncle Walt” Whitman, who was a fixture at army hospitals throughout D.C. during the war as he visited wounded soldiers.

Jeff and I will take turns reading from our novels, and we’ll discuss our approaches to writing about the war. We hope to see you there!

Historical Gold from INDIEFAB!

indiefab-gold-imprintOn June 25 at the American Library Association’s annual conference in Orlando, Foreword Reviews magazine announced the winners of the 2015 INDIEFAB Awards, which recognizes the best work in independent publishing. Up the Hill to Home, which was a finalist in both general and historical fiction, won the Gold in the historical fiction category.

“Foreword’s INDIEFAB judges are the key to our winners selection process, and, in our minds, the most foolproof way to choose award-winning books,” said Victoria Sutherland, publisher of Foreword Reviews. “We work with a librarian and bookseller in each category to provide us with an insider’s perspective on what would do well on consumer and library shelves. Using industry professionals confirms the trade quality of a book.”

Last May, the Foreword Reviews 2015 summer issue highlighted Up the Hill to Home in a feature article as one of eight debut novels to watch.

Historical Novels Review Spring 2016 Issue

The following reviews initially appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of the Historical Novels Review of the Historical Novel Society.

Translation of LoveTHE TRANSLATION OF LOVE, Lynne Kutsukake, Doubleday

This touching and thought-provoking debut novel follows the storylines of several Japanese, Japanese-American, and Japanese-Canadian characters living—and sometimes barely surviving—in Japan during the post-Word War II American occupation. The stories weave together to create a wide-ranging, detailed portrait of the civilian Japanese experience before, during, and after the war.

Central to the story is General Douglas MacArthur. As one character observes, MacArthur seems almost to replace the emperor in the eyes of the Japanese people. In his role as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, MacArthur invites the Japanese to write him letters, and they respond in astounding numbers.

Pervading the novel is a constant sense of dislocation. Aya, a Canadian schoolgirl whose mother died while the family was interned, has been “repatriated” to Japan with her father but speaks virtually no Japanese. Corporal Yoshitaka “Matt” Matsumoto is a second-generation American who joined the army from an internment camp to prove his loyalty, and, now part of the occupation force, uses his rusty language skills to translate those letters to MacArthur. Matt’s coworker and fellow American citizen Nancy Nogami was visiting relatives in Japan in December 1941, and so was never allowed to return home. For the native Japanese, the social and cultural dislocation they face in their occupied country is seismic and stark.

This seismic shift in culture is most clearly illustrated through the stories of Fumi, who gradually befriends Aya, and Fumi’s sister Sumiko, who naively accepts employment at a dancehall, which immediately turns into indentured servitude. When Sumiko can no longer return home, Fumi and Aya write a letter to MacArthur to beg for his help in finding her.

Kutsukake has created a nuanced, empathetic but unsentimental story that considers what it means to rebuild an identity, both as an individual and as a nation.

The RisenTHE RISEN: A NOVEL OF SPARTACUS, David Anthony Durham, Doubleday

In David Anthony Durham’s novels of ancient Rome, Rome plays the villain. Pride of Carthage mapped Hannibal’s attempt to overthrow that seat of world power, and now The Risen traces the great slave uprising lead by the gladiator Spartacus. Credit the power of Durham’s storytelling that it doesn’t matter that readers already know the outcome of both ill-fated campaigns; the journey to get there is absolutely worth the trip.

Durham’s approach to the story is both inventive and well-suited to the task. He’s broken the book into three sections, each made up of chapters told from the point of view of the same set of characters. Thus, readers get to know and follow a handful of characters through the shifting tides of the story, including a hapless Roman soldier, an old woman whose early servitude taught her routes up and down the length of Italy, a Greek medic, a Roman general’s slave scribe, several of Spartacus’s most trusted lieutenants, and Spartacus himself.

Spartacus is a born leader, able to think both strategically and tactically, helped also by a priestess’s visions of triumph. The gladiators’ escape, early sorties, and first two engagements with the Roman armies sent against them are thrilling in their planning and execution. Spartacus takes the long view of his eventual objectives, though not everyone in his expansive following agrees with his plans.

Halfway through the book, the tide starts to turn against The Risen, slowly at first with small setbacks, but soon in wave after wave of bad luck, betrayal, and strategic miscalculations. As one character says, Spartacus was so strong he could only be brought down through betrayal, but it may be that Spartacus simply didn’t understand that, however much Rome was hated, an army of slaves could never command the respect necessary to gain true allies.

Not All BastardsNOT ALL BASTARDS ARE FROM VIENNA, Andrea Molesini, translated by Antony Shugaar and Patrick Creagh, Grove Press

This restrained, beautifully written debut novel looks at war from the microcosm of a single location, that of a villa in the small Italian town of Refrontolo, just north of Venice, in the immediate aftermath of the disastrous Battle of Caporetto. It is November 1917, and the German/Austro-Hungarian armies are pressing their advantage to drive deeper into Italy. The novel opens as a contingent of Germans commandeers the villa of the Spada family for the officers’ use, and billets the infantry in the almost-deserted village. The adult narrator, Paolo Spada, looks back on the story through the eyes of his 17-year-old self, describing events with just the right mix of understanding, naiveté, and desire for grown-up adventure that a boy on the cusp of manhood would have in that situation.

Engaging characters populate the Spada household: strong-willed grandmother Nancy; contrary, charming grandfather Gugliemo; fiercely loyal housekeeper Teresa; beautiful, eccentric neighbor Giulia; intelligence-officer-cum-house-steward Renato; and, at the center, Paolo’s intelligent, resourceful aunt Donna Maria. Paolo observes the chastely tender relationship that grows between Maria and the Viennese major in charge of the billeted army, Baron Von Feilitzsch. These two aristocrats with similar educations and cultural influences share far more in common than does the monied family with the local peasants, but war both divides and unites along national boundaries. Maria and the Baron are the last products of old empires that will not survive the war. As many in the family are drawn into helping Renato’s insurgency missions, those boundaries are fully drawn.

Molesini’s language is simple and lovely, and his story draws the reader in close to the family. He notes that this novel was inspired by Maria Spada’s privately published Diary of Invasion; he has written a book that is equal to such a remarkable woman.

More from the Historical Novels Review Spring 2016 Issue

The following reviews initially appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of the Historical Novels Review of the Historical Novel Society.

HystopiaHYSTOPIA, David Means, Farrar, Straus & Giroux

The conceit of Hystopia, author David Means’ first novel, is that the novel it contains was written by a Vietnam vet, Eugene Allen, who leaves the completed manuscript and a set of notes behind when he commits suicide. Eugene’s novel is bracketed by a series of editor’s notes and snippets of interviews with Eugene’s friends, family, and acquaintances, through which we come to understand how much of his novel is autobiographical.

Means makes it clear from the start that all of this is alternative history. The book opens with an editor’s note mentioning, “Details of the seventh assassination attempt made on John F. Kennedy, now known as the Genuine Assassination, have been changed slightly in Allen’s narrative . . . ”

As the novel inside the novel describes, Kennedy’s administration has developed a therapy called enfolding, which attempts to heal returning veterans’ psychological trauma. Vets take a drug called Tripizoid, re-enact the scene of their trauma, and thereby cancel the event out of their conscious and unconscious memory. It doesn’t work on everyone, and a failed treatment deepens the damage.

The story alternates primarily between Singleton and Wendy, agents of Kennedy’s Psych Corps, and a variety of characters roaming the wastelands of Michigan, burned to the waterline by rampaging gangs and failed enfoldees. The worst of these is psychopathic Rake, who has kidnapped a young woman and is holding her at his buddy’s cabin. All of these characters are damaged, some irretrievably, but as the story lines eventually converge, Means allows Eugene to give his characters a measure of light at the end of their dark tunnel. For us, Means has woven an ingenious, compelling, brutal story of the ravages that war exacts on the society that wages it.

EdenWEST OF EDEN: AN AMERICAN PLACE, Jean Stein, Random House

This is the book for anyone who needs to be reminded that money does not buy happiness. In fact, the lesson taught by West of Eden is that having lots of money simply opens the door to buying unhappiness on a truly breathtaking scale.

Author Jean Stein is the daughter of Jules Stein, founder of MCA and one of the most powerful men in entertainment for many years. Each of five sections focuses on a selected family, such as that of Jack Warner of Warner Bros. fame; Jennifer Jones, among whose husbands was hugely powerful producer David O. Selznick; and Stein’s own. It’s fitting that sections are subtitled with the addresses of the houses these people lived in, since each is a character in its own right.

The book is made up of interwoven interviews with friends, family, business associates, and other witnesses to the goings-on of the rich, powerful, and famous. It’s compulsively readable but often disturbing, in particular as readers understand the frequency with which stunningly self-absorbed parents utterly ignore or discard their children. Rarely are stepfamilies blended; the old family is merely left behind somewhere to make room for the new one. It’s a sobering portrait.

AgincourtTHE BATTLE OF AGINCOURT, Edited by Anne Curry and Malcolm Mercer, Yale University Press

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers . . .” One of Shakespeare’s most rousing speeches is declaimed by King Henry V in advance of the Battle of Agincourt, which took place October 25, 1415, and in which the far-outnumbered English army emerged victorious against the French. That battle is the subject of this gorgeous, richly illustrated, and scholarly coffee table book, a project developed under the auspices of Britain’s Royal Armouries to commemorate the 600-year anniversary of a battle that its predecessor, the Office of Armoury, actually outfitted. The book features a collection of essays that discuss various aspects of Agincourt, from the English and French commanders, to the weapons and armaments, to the precipitating factors and aftermath, to Shakespeare’s Henry V, and even to the 1944 Laurence Olivier film of the play, which was filmed in Technicolor and released at the height of World War II as a huge boost to national morale. Though Agincourt was not a decisive battle in the Hundred Years War, the editors credit Shakespeare’s play with making the battle a cultural touchstone in the English historical narrative.

Historical Novels Review Winter 2016 Issue

The following reviews originally appeared in the February 2016 print and online edition of the Historical Novels Review of the Historical Novel Society.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 9.24.03 PMTHE LOST TIME ACCIDENTS, John Wray, Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Taken together, John Wray’s first three novels clearly demonstrate his facility in representing a broad, eclectic range of subjects, time periods, and characters; thus, this novel should come as no real surprise, but it does. Defying easy categorization, the book weaves elements of science, science fiction, history, pop culture, and religion to produce a funny, mordant, thoughtful, and thought-provoking exegesis on the nature of time.

Waldemar Tolliver is both the hapless victim and natural product of his notorious family’s history. When his great-grandfather, pickle baron and amateur physicist Ottokar Toula, dies just hours after making the stunning but ill-documented discovery that it’s possible to move freely within the dimension of time, Ottokar’s descendants are trapped in lifetimes of attempting to unlock those lost secrets. Waldy’s family, certain it has the inside track on the right answer, dismisses Einstein as “The Patent Clerk.” “The belief that every physicist since Newton has been a fraud or a sucker (or both) is our family dogma, passed from generation to generation like a vendetta or an allergy to nuts.”

The details unwrap themselves slowly as we read over Waldy’s shoulder while he pens his family’s sordid history for the faithless woman he loves, Mrs. Haven. He writes from inside the depths of his late aunts’ huge, stuffed-to-the-rafters New York apartment where, incidentally, he finds himself entirely outside the stream of time. How he came to be there, how he is named after his great-uncle the war criminal, how his father’s bad science fiction writing is responsible for the founding of a cult (Wray doesn’t bother to hide that he’s describing Scientology), and how his thoroughly eccentric aunts may have finally solved the puzzle are all eventually revealed in this story that, like a black hole, winds ever tighter around its core.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 9.23.21 PMTHE VATICAN PRINCESS: A NOVEL OF LUCREZIA BORGIA, C.W. Gortner, Ballantine

Pity Lucrezia Borgia and the legacy of historical gossip permanently attached to her. Simply saying the name conjures up titillating visions of wealth, power, evil, and lots of illicit sex. C.W. Gortner, who specializes in Renaissance fiction featuring strong female protagonists, uses his latest novel to cut through the innuendo and perhaps shine a more historically accurate light onto this notorious woman, who seems to have simply had the misfortune of being born into the wrong family.

Gortner has Lucrezia narrate her own story, and he presents her as a credible witness. She and her siblings are the children of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia and one of his many long-term mistresses; the barest of charades is used to maintain the required appearances. The story opens when Lucrezia is twelve and the conclave of cardinals is set to elect a new pope. We immediately plunge into the stunning complexities, intrigues, and cold-blooded cynicism of life among the Vatican elite. Rodrigo’s machinations win him the papacy, a thoroughly political office that demands constant power-brokering and frequent wars to protect it. Lucrezia is used as any Renaissance princess would be, as a useful tool for cementing allegiances, and she has precious little real influence. However much Rodrigo dotes upon her, or her brother Cesare claims to love her, the entire Borgia clan uses her horrifically and eventually causes her nothing but misery.

The author has invested his novel with impressive historical detail that is woven neatly into the threads of the story, and his afterword and references offer excellent insight and final wrap-up. Though he strikes a few false notes – Lucrezia’s relinquished child seems to play almost no part in her emotional make-up – Gortner gives us a sympathetic portrait of a woman who was treated badly both in life and by the historical record.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 9.21.55 PMTHE MAN WHO SPOKE SNAKISH, Andrus Kivirähk, translated by Christopher Mosley, Black Cat

In The Man Who Spoke Snakish, Estonian writer Andrus Kivirähk weaves a melancholy, often brutal, tale of the last gasp of an ancient folkloric culture. He describes a people who live entirely in the forest, keep wolves to ride (like horses) and milk (like cows), command wild deer and goats to come to slaughter, and speak the language of their friends the snakes. It is this ability that offers the people dominion over the wolves, deer, and goats, and the forest in general.

Even as the novel opens, though, we find a culture in steep decline. People are leaving the forest in droves, drawn into the tantalizingly modern life of the village with its foreign invaders’ concepts that appear to offer a better life. The title character, Leemet, lives with his widowed mother and sister in their hut in the forest surrounded by an ever-shrinking community. Leemet’s uncle Vootele is the last fluent human speaker of Snakish, and he insists that Leemet learn it equally well. Vootele teaches Leemet about their ancient protector, the Frog of the North, and about Leemet’s grandfather, the last man to have poisonous fangs, which he used to tear into the “iron men” before those invading knights were able to capture him, chop off his legs, and throw him into the sea.

Though there is humor, particularly in some of the early descriptions and observations, the novel becomes ever darker as Leemet finds himself increasingly isolated. Kivirähk can perhaps be forgiven for drawing caricatures on both sides of the culture clash that traps Leemet, since every folktale features archetypes rather than well-drawn characters. Nonetheless, Kivirähk’s tale is poignant in its depiction of the loss of community, of the utter loneliness of living without the people who most understand who we really are.

Book Review: Almost Everything Very Fast

This review originally appeared in the Washington Independent Review of Books on February 22, 2016.

There are two parallel narratives running through Almost Everything Very Fast, German author Christopher Kloeble’s first novel to be translated into English. The connections between the storylines reveal themselves gradually, and it takes almost the entire book before they fully intersect. But we know they will eventually, and the journey to bring them together is a compelling one.

It’s tempting to describe this book as charming, which is surprising given that it describes murder and other violent deaths, rampant incest, Nazi brutality, and a host of lesser ugliness. Credit Kloeble’s unshowy, matter-of-fact — even tender — delivery for bringing in the light.

The primary narrative belongs to Albert, a 19-year-old who has spent the last 16 years in St. Helena’s orphanage, outside his hometown of Königsdorf. Albert is not actually an orphan, though: while he is desperate to know who his mother was, his father, Fred Driajes, is still alive. Unfortunately, Fred has the mental capacity of a young child — a six-and-a half-foot-tall, happy, enthusiastic child whose favorite word is “ambrosial” — and Albert has served as the parent in their relationship for many years.

The lone stable adult in Albert’s childhood is St Helena’s steely headmistress, Sister Alfonsa, with whom he has a close but complicated relationship. She recognizes his intellect, teaches him to play chess, and is obviously fond of him, but also levies his punishment each time Albert runs away to Fred, convinced that this time he can forge a real connection with his “Papaa.”

It never happens, of course. Through years of summer vacations, Fred’s primary occupations are reading entries in the encyclopedia and counting green cars each day from the town’s bus stop. Albert cannot glean any information from him. “Trying to hold a conversation with Fred, one that actually amounted to anything, was the most terrible, Sisyphean labor he knew.” But when a cardiologist callously waves five fingers at them to indicate how many months Fred has left to live, Albert makes up his mind to move in with Fred in a last-ditch effort to discover who his mother is.

The second narrative belongs to Julian, who serves as our link to a difficult past. Readers meet him in the prologue, a sharp old man with painful memories. He starts his story from a tiny Bavarian hamlet called Segendorf, a village so remote that the inhabitants don’t hear about World War I until after it’s already been lost.

Segendorf is so small that a significant amount of inbreeding mars the village: “It frequently happened that somebody’s brother was also his cousin, or somebody’s daughter also her sister. Quite a few local families had produced a ‘Klöble’ — a ‘clumsy, stupid fellow.’ Mothers of such children were spat upon.” (Kloeble seems to have made up this definition for his own name.)

Thus, the characters Jasfe and Josfer Habom are not just sister and brother, they are also mother and father to Julian and his sister, Anni. Tragedy ensues when 11-year-old Julian discovers the truth of that dual relationship, and thereafter he leaves the village and his beloved sister behind.

Though he lives a rich life with his savior and mentor, the undertaker Wickenhauser, he is drawn back to Segendorf for love of Anni, and arrives the night before she marries the one foreigner who has ever survived stumbling into the village, a Pole named Arkadiusz Driajes.

While Julian bides his time and stews over the interloper, he fathers a child with Mina, the Klöble who loves him, who helped him to abscond years before. His child and Anni’s are born days apart. And if the Great War bypassed Segendorf, the Nazis do not, and they perform their own brand of “housecleaning,” rebranding the village as “Königsdorf.”

At its heart, this is a novel about absent parents. Some characters try to spin that absence into a positive. Fred’s next-door neighbor Klondi, who fully understands her own stunning failure as a parent, comforts a young Albert by saying, “Mothers are overrated, Albert. If you ask me, you can count yourself lucky that you grew up without one.” Wickenhauser makes the same point to Julian: “We’re all better off without our parents.”

But, of course, that’s not really true. The void is always too large to fill, though it doesn’t stop any of the parentless characters from trying. Even Fred stalks the sewers of Königsdorf in search of his father, while Albert continues his detective work into the identity of his mother. All he has is a single photograph and a compact that contains two strands of hair that are just as red as his own. And Sister Alfonsa, firmly believing that Albert and Fred should be staying at St. Helena’s in Fred’s last few months, knows exactly the way to lure her favorite back: “I could show you who your mother is.”

Sister Alfonsa has never before hinted that she knows this truth, and her bait does the trick. Albert, Fred, Klondi, and Albert’s old girlfriend Violet pile into Violet’s Volkswagen for the road trip back to Sister Alfonsa and the answers to their many questions.

Ultimately, these answers may not be very satisfying, because, truly, what can ever make up for a lifetime of absence? Perhaps Fred has the answer to this question when he remarks, “We are all Most Beloved Possessions” of those to whom we are most present.

Join me for Kensington Day of the Book

thumbnail_autographThe DC/Baltimore area is blessed with a vibrant book scene, illustrated in part by the increasing number of independent book stores and popular local book festivals the region supports. One of those festivals is Kensington Day of the Book, which is celebrating its 11th year on Sunday, April 24, from 11-4 on Howard Avenue. I’ll be one of the participating authors this year, so I hope you’ll come out to wonderful little Kensington, Maryland to celebrate all things book-related, and enjoy mingling with a slate of local and nationally known authors to talk books. Fingers crossed for warm, sunny weather!

Finalist in Two INDIEFAB 2015 Book of the Year Categories


Foreword Reviews Magazine is dedicated to exploring, discussing, highlighting, and celebrating all that is best in independent book publishing. On March 7th, Foreword Reviews released the list of finalists in its 2015 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards, and Up the Hill to Home is a finalist in both the General and Historical Fiction categories. Award winners will be announced at the American Libraries Association annual conference in June.

Book Review: A General Theory of Oblivion

This book review originally appeared in The Washington Independent Review of Books on January 5, 2016.

For American readers not already familiar with author José Eduardo Agualusa, and whose understanding of Portuguese colonialism is perhaps somewhat vague, A General Theory of Oblivion is a sneaky bit of a history lesson.

Portugal, which was comparable to England in the scope and length of its colonial reach, landed in what is now the southwest coastal African country of Angola in 1483 and didn’t cede control until 1975. Hence, it really shouldn’t be surprising that Agualusa is a white, native Angolan who writes in Portuguese.

That he writes with such an empathetic, race-neutral view of the struggle for Angolan independence won’t be surprising to those who have read some of his earlier works, such as The Book of Chameleons or Rainy Season.

At the center of Theory is Ludovica Fernandes Mano — Ludo — a native of Portugal with longstanding agoraphobia. “When still only a little girl, she was horrified by open spaces. She felt, upon leaving the house, fragile and vulnerable, like a turtle whose shell had been torn off.” An incident she thinks of simply as “The Accident” cements her unwillingness to venture outdoors.

After their parents die, she lives with her sister Odette. When Orlando, a visiting Angolan mining engineer, falls in love with Odette, he realizes it is a package deal. He brings both sisters with him to live in the Angolan capital of Luanda, in a huge luxury apartment with a private rooftop veranda and a vast library.

Normalcy begins to erode as the long-simmering conflict for Angolan independence comes to a boil. Odette wants to join the many well-off Angolans who decide that Brazil or Portugal is more to their liking, but the day that Orlando finally agrees, he and Odette never return home from a farewell party.

Three things happen in quick succession: armed fighting breaks out in the streets below; a phone caller demands “the stones” in return for her sister; and Ludo accidentally kills one young man in a group of scavengers about to break into the apartment. After that, she methodically builds a brick wall outside her door that cuts the apartment off from the rest of the building and Ludo from the rest of the world.

From the foreword and acknowledgements, we learn that Ludo was a real person who bricked herself into her apartment for 28 years, writing diaries in notebooks until she ran out of paper and began to write on the apartment walls.

The book’s title comes from something the fictional Ludo writes: “If I still had the space, charcoal, and available walls, I could compose a great work about forgetting: a general theory of oblivion.” But the book might also have been named for one of the chapters, “The Subtle Architecture of Chance,” because at the heart of this story is the concept that chance choreographs so much of what our lives become.

Ludo peeks out at the world around and below her, watching incidents unfold that we see closer up and so make better sense of. Her world shrinks along with her food supply and eventually her vision. Survival comes to depend on burning books and furniture for cooking and heating, raising crops and collecting rainwater in the rooftop gardens, and learning to trap pigeons.

This last is made easier when Ludo finally finds the cache of diamonds hidden in the apartment and realizes the sparkle is just the thing to lure in the birds. Thus, in Ludo’s world, are pigeons worth far more than diamonds.

Interspersed with what sometimes feels like a fever dream of Ludo’s survival inside her castle walls are the swirling stories of the people and events in the streets and halls just outside. The tales may seem random and disconnected, but Agualusa is a master storyteller who doesn’t bother to introduce a character or mention an incident unless it has a larger role to play.

In one small instance, Ludo releases one of the captured pigeons, even though it has swallowed some of the diamonds, because it carries a love note in a cylinder on its leg. That act affects the lives of many of the characters we meet.

And those characters are never cardboard. For example, Jeremias Carrasco (which means executioner), a Portuguese mercenary with a taste for torture, squares off against Magno Mireira Monte, an intelligence officer of the communist MPLA faction who does his own share of inflicting pain, and yet each man eventually reveals a measure of humanity that lifts him out of simple villainy.

Agualusa originally wrote this story as a screenplay, and the novel retains that sense of immediacy. Certainly his economy of words heightens its impact. (The page count is deceptive: this is a tiny book with lots of white space, easily consumed in one long sitting.)

It’s a tribute to Agualusa’s storytelling that the bittersweet redemption found by his characters feels authentic; he and they have earned it.

2015 Readers’ Favorite Awards Ceremony

Each year, in Miami, Florida, Readers’ Favorite holds a weekend-long celebration for the recipients of its annual book awards, which recognizes the best in independent publishing. The festivities are always held the same November weekend as the huge Miami Book Festival, making this an all-books-all-the-time extravaganza. This year, Readers’ Favorite recognized Up the Hill to Home with a gold medal in the category of Christian Historical Fiction, so I took a quick weekend trip to attend the awards ceremony.

Book award On display On the Carpet