The Patron Saint of Ugly/Marie Manilla (prose of the day)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sometimes life intervenes. Frankly, life ALWAYS intervenes. Which is to say I simply cannot read as thoroughly, as completely, as everlastingly as I would like to do.

Case in point: The Patron Saint of Ugly, a forthcoming novel by Marie Manilla, is so rocking, so unusual, so full of 'tude and flair ... but I haven't had the time to finish reading it yet, and I don't wish to rush through. At the same time I want you to know now about this writer, sooner being better than later, and so my methodology, on this Monday morning, as other pressures press, is to advertise, then to excerpt.

So first, the set up, from the flap copy: Born in Sweetwater, West Virginia, with a mop of flaming red hair and a map of the world rendered in port-wine stains on every surface of her body, Garnet Ferrari is used to being an outcast. With her sharp tongue, she knows how to defend herself against bullies and aggressors, but she finds she is less adept at fending off the pilgrims camped outside her hilltop home, convinced that she is Saint Garnet, healer of skin ailments and maker of miracles. Determined to debunk this "gift" rooted in her past, Garnet reaches back into her family's tangled history, unspooling a tale of love triangles on the shores of the Strait of Messina; a sad, beautiful maiden's gilded-cage childhood in blueblood Virginia; and the angelic, doomed boy Garnet could not protect.

Now an excerpt, to prove my assertion that Marie Manilla writes jangling, animated, original prose, that she ceaselessly surprises, that she is hilarious, that she sings a song to the wild, flame-hued tunes in her head.

Garnet, our storyteller, is addressing the Archbishop:
It's a stormy day in our smudge on the map. I'm impressed you visited, since getting here involves a series of ever-smaller planes—jets, turboprops, hamster-powered Cessnas—topped off with a spiraling drive up to my door. Even you commented on West Virginia's low status, its reputation maligned thanks in part to industrialists, Johnny Carson, and Virginians—our Siamese twins still fuming over that nervy Civil War split.
I can't wait to finish this book. You shouldn't wait to order it. It's due out on June 17th from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Editor: the one and only Lauren Wein.

Congratulations, Marie Manilla.


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