Cliff Garstang, "The Shaman of Turtle Valley" and Cameron Mackenzie, "The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career"
Cliff Garstang, The Shaman of Turtle Valley and Cameron MacKenzie, The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career
Monday, February 17, 7pm
The Shaman of Turtle Valley by Cliff Garstang
The author of the award-winning What the Zhang Boys Know now gives us a heart-rending first novel about love, displacement, and the powerful ghosts that haunt so many families.
The Alexanders have farmed the land in Turtle Valley for generations, and their family and its history is tied to this mountainous region of Virginia in ways few others can claim. When Gulf War veteran Aiken Alexander brings home a young and pregnant South Korean bride, he hopes at long last to claim his own place in that complicated history—coming out from behind the shadow of his tragically killed older brother and taking up a new place in his father’s affections. However, things do not go according to plan. While he loves his young son, his wife, Soon-hee, can’t—or won’t—adjust to life in America. Her behavior growing stranger and stranger to Aiken’s eyes every day until the marriage reaches a breaking point.
When Soon-hee disappears with their son, Aiken’s life and dreams truly fall apart—he loses his job, is compelled to return to the family home, and falls prey to all his worst impulses. It is at this low point that Aiken’s story becomes interwoven with a dubious Alexander family history, one that pitted brother against brother and now cousin against cousin, in a perfect storm of violence and dysfunction.
Drawing on Korean beliefs in spirits and shamanism, how Aiken solves these problems—both corporeal and spiritual—is at the center of this dynamic and beautifully written debut novel.
Clifford Garstang is the author of the novel in stories, What the Zhang Boys Know, winner of the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction, and the short story collection In an Uncharted Country. He is also the editor of Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, a three-volume anthology of stories set around the world. A former Peace Corps Volunteer in South Korea and an international lawyer, Garstang lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career by Cameron MacKenzie
“I am not the revolution...I am the instrument of another hand.” So does Francisco “Pancho” Villa begin the tale of his rise from thief to warlord to the revolutionary leader of northern Mexico. By turns a confession and an act of seduction, The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career chronicles a country remaking itself through blood and violence, giving shape to the boy who would dare to step from anonymity into power through the inexorable force of his will.
An exile at 16 after the murder of his family’s landowner, Villa begins a journey through dusty desert villages and barren mountaintop camps where his principles are formed and tested by endemic injustice. Building a group of outlaws around him, Villa begins to wage a war on the landowning dons that control the state, but as the savagery increases and the betrayals multiply, the ascension within Villa’s command of the mysterious and sadistic Rodolfo Fierro puts Villa’s ideals, and his vision of the future of Mexico, to the test.
Luminous, disturbing and powerful, The Beginning of His Excellent and Eventful Career weaves history and drama into a driving tale of ambition and brutality, insisting that those who would remake the world must first set fire to the old.
Cameron MacKenzie was born in Virginia and has worked as a dry cleaner, doorman, house painter,farm hand, contractor, editor and teacher, residing inSanta Barbara, London, Tokyo, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and now Virginia once again, where he lives with his wife and children.