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  • Writer's picturePatti Callahan Henry

Four fiery Southern books for spring

Arts & Culture Featured

Four fiery Southern books for spring

April 26, 2023

There’s no shortage of new books to read this spring, no matter what your tastes. From engrossing historical fiction to memoirs too powerful to put down, here are four books by some of our favorite Southern authors to soak up instead of working on those flower beds.

MAY 2, 2023

In 1960 London, Hazel Linden stumbles onto a lead in the decades-old cold case of her younger sister’s disappearance after a mysterious package arrives at the bookstore where she works. Inside is a volume titled “Whisperwood,” which eerily resembles the fantasy realm Hazel invented years earlier as a teenager and shared with her 5-year-old sister, Flora, when the two were evacuated from London during World War II. Months into the evacuation, tragedy strikes, and Flora vanishes while playing near the banks of the River Thames — presumably drowned — though a body is never found. Meanwhile, Hazel, who’s never given up hope of finding Flora again, is inspired to redouble her efforts in the search for her long-lost sister. BUY THE BOOK

“The House Is on Fire” by Rachel Beanland

This novel is a retelling of the devastating December 1811 Richmond Theatre fire, which killed 72 people — most of them women — after a teenage stagehand raised a lit chandelier to the rafters, where it ignited the backdrop and then the building. The story alternates between four survivors, including a genteel widow attending the play, an enslaved blacksmith who runs to the scene to help and the blacksmith’s niece, who decides to make a run for freedom amid the ensuing chaos.

“This Won’t End Well: The True Story of a Man I Thought I Knew” by Daniel Wallace

The “Big Fish” author’s first foray into nonfiction chronicles his longtime friendship with illustrator and outdoor adventurer William Nealy, who was also the author’s brother-in-law and mentor. When Nealy took his own life at age 48, Wallace was left grief-stricken and furious, until he reluctantly read through Nealy’s private journals and realized the depths of his friend’s pain, bringing into question much of what he thought he knew about the man.

“Silver Alert” by Lee Smith

This warm-hearted novel follows an elderly man and his new young friend on a life-affirming joyride through the Florida Keys. Health failing after being diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer, 83-year-old Herb Atlas pushes back against his children’s plan to move him and his wife, Susan, to a nursing home to live out their final days. His only ally is Susan’s nail technician, Renee Martin, a North Carolina transplant and sex trafficking survivor whose real name is “Dee Dee” Mullins. When Dee Dee finds herself unexpectedly pregnant by a man who has no desire to start a family, Herb suggests one last joyride in his canary yellow Porsche.


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