A Swallow Press Book
“O’Keeffe’s debut gracefully encapsulates the working-class cycle of poverty and hopelessness in the lives of these hard-laboring, sympathetic wives and mothers.”
“With important—and contemporary—issues at stake in the life of a fully fleshed character, the novel has the makings of a savored read. And O’Keeffe’s succulent language quenches a thirst.”
“What I liked most: The writing. The writing is beautiful…. Recommend it to? Anyone who likes reading character-driven books. The writing is beautiful so it’s well worth a read.”
“This is a multi-layered book that cannot be read too quickly. It is a novel about domestic abuse, social class, stereotypes, prejudice, sexuality, faith, and friendship. Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s poetic writing grasps the reader and does not let go until the final words of the last chapter. Her descriptions of tragedy and loss are so gut wrenching! At times, I found myself holding my breath.”
Author Exposure Book Club
It is 1883, and all of Klara Bozic's girlish dreams have come crashing down as she arrives in Thirsty, a gritty steel town carved into the slopes above the Monongahela River just outside of Pittsburgh. She has made a heartbreaking discovery. Her new husband Drago is as abusive as the father she left behind in Croatia.
In Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s debut novel, Klara's life unfolds over forty years as she struggles to find her place in a new country where her survival depends on the friends who nurture her: gutsy, funny Katherine Zupanovic, who isn't afraid of Drago’s fist; BenJo, the only black man in Thirsty to have his own shop; and strangely enough, Old Man Rupert, the town drunk.
Thirsty follows a chain of unlikely events that keep Klara's spirit aloft: a flock of angelic butterflies descends on Thirsty; Klara gives birth to her first child in Old Man Rupert's pumpkin patch; and BenJo gives her a talking bird. When Klara's daughter marries a man even more brutal than Drago, Klara is forced to act. If she doesn't finally break the cycle of violence in her family, her granddaughters will one day walk the same road, broken and bruised. As the threads that hold her family together fray and come undone, Klara has to decide if she has the courage to carve out a peaceful spot in the world for herself and her girls.
Kristin Bair O’Keeffe has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Poets & Writers Magazine, the Baltimore Review, and the Gettysburg Review. She lives in Shanghai, China. More info →
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“Nan turned to see Ben’s face turn as hard and white as a sauerkraut crock. When he did not respond, Nan figured that he was just going to back off as he usually did, the shy and retiring husbandman. She did not know her history. She did not know that shy and retiring husbandmen have been known to revolt against oppression with pitchforks drawn.”
Situated in a remote outpost in West Virginia at the turn of the last century, the story that Lenore McComas Coberly tells in Sarah's Girls is one of place, people, and unquenchable spirit. In this fictionalized account of her recent ancestors, Coberly masterfully traces the journeys of their lives, their dreams, and their hardships over the course of the twentieth century.
Unlike other young women of her generation, who were “bred up from childhood to sit behind tea-tables and say the right things to tea-drinkers,” Sylvia Marshall—the “twig” of this novel—was reared to think for herself and to trust her own instincts and experience. This, coupled with her passionate temperament, makes Sylvia a compelling figure as she resists efforts to mold her with every rebellious fiber of her independent nature.
Power in the Blood: A Family Narrative traces Linda Tate’s journey to rediscover the Cherokee-Appalachian branch of her family and provides an unflinching examination of the poverty, discrimination, and family violence that marked their lives.