If you grew up in a “Leave It To Beaver” household with Ward and June Cleaver, then Wylene Dunbar’s second novel may seem a bit strange. I’m betting you would enjoy it – just as we all enjoy well-written literature, even if it doesn’t directly relate to our lives. But you might not understand it in the way it resonated with me. Let me explain.
I’ve had a stable of stock answers to throw out when people ask about my childhood. When I was considerably younger, I would say “I wasn’t really raised – I kind of just grew up.” As I grew older I’d say, flippantly, “I was raised by wolves.” That usually stopped the conversation, which was fine by me.
Then I read Wylene’s novel, “My Life With Corpses,” and I knew I had another answer I could add to my repertoire. And I also knew that Wylene, who lives in Nevada City, could probably relate. Otherwise, how could she have known what it was like to be raised by people who were either dead (not literally) or dying. The dead among us – we’ve all known one or two, right?
Wylene’s novel was published by Hartcort, so this is not some self-published book. Wylene is a pro, and a talented writer. She has been a lawyer, a philosopher and, now, author. She says she writes from a particular place: “At the heart of each is the desire to ‘figure it out,’ to get to the bottom line, the true meaning, the truth.”
In the novel, the main character, Oz, is living in a family of corpses – those living human beings who have died inside, given up, detached emotionally – and she is saved by Mr. Stark, who somehow recognizes the girl as a bright spirit among the corpses. My parallel was Mr. Newton, who was the first adult I ever met who understood my language and what it meant for me to grow up among the corpses as an only child with 15 childless aunts and uncles.
Wylene uses the best of magic realism in this book, so the ability to suspend belief at some point is necessary.
The author has really written an upbeat book, because there is hope once one realizes that human beings engaged in life can be a counterpoint – and an escape – from the corpsedom surrounding them.
Wylene, who received her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt and law degree from the University of Mississippi, speaks at 6:30 tonight at The Book Seller in Grass Valley. To have an author of this caliber living in our creative community is indeed a blessing. I can’t wait to meet her.
Dixie Redfearn can be reached at 477-4238 or by email at email@example.com, or by fax at 477-4292.
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