Audio Length: 20 minutes
Photo by Michelle Ocampo
As Elizabeth Gilbert says, FRIENDSWOOD “by René Steinke is a book of rare power,” “a page-turner of the most explosive quality,” and “a work by an author operating at the peak of her authority.” It is the breakout book that readers have been anticipating from Steinke, who was named a NBA finalist in 2005 for her novel Holy Skirts, and recently served as NBA fiction judge in 2013. A critical darling, Steinke has been praised as “a consummate prose stylist” (BookForum) whose fictional worlds are “fascinating” (W Magazine), “fully realized” (Chicago Tribune), and “sympathetic and well-written” (Washington Post). With FRIENDSWOOD she has brought all those talents to a novel that is expansive and bighearted, layered and suspenseful.
In this Authorlink interview, Steinke talks about how she conceived the idea for the novel, her long struggle to finish the work, and her road to publication.
Inspired by the town where she grew up, FRIENDSWOOD (Riverhead Books, August 14, 2014) is an emotionally complex story about a small Texas town and the interconnected lives of its inhabitants. When the town’s legacy of tragedy—a toxic leak that sickened and killed dozens a decade earlier—begins to rear its head again, the community unravels. Steinke imbues her characters with a warm, vibrant humanity—a mother coping with her teenage daughter’s death, high school adolescents entangled in a sexual assault cover up, a politician balancing big money interests against the health of the town’s residents—and she has an unerring ear for the rhythms of small town life.
Exploring how politics, sex, and religion are inextricably knotted together, FRIENDSWOOD is a challenging, and inspiring novel that ultimately shows how the decisions of a few can change the lives of many.
NAMED ONE OF MASHABLE’S 24 MUST-READ BOOKS FOR SUMMER 2014
“Steinke expertly weaves in the stresses of Lee’s past and present…Steinke’s message that the truth will out gives her novel the comfort of a commercial page-turner, but she hasn’t simplified her lead characters to sell the notion. A sharp, observant novel about the hard realities of challenging the status quo.”
“This is a book of rare power, tempered by equally rare grace. Steinke’s sense of this small Texas town, with its explosive and interconnected lives and deaths, is absolutely masterful. The reader is pulled into the story immediately, emotionally, morally, completely. What’s more, it’s a page-turner of the most explosive quality. Steinke torques the plot tighter and tighter, until the suspense is nearly unbearable—yet never loses sight of her character’s humanity, nor sacrifices a word of her beautiful prose.” —ELIZABETH GILBERT
“Friendswood is a large-hearted, big-brained book. Suspenseful, heartbreaking, thrilling, and hopeful, here’s a novel that makes you believe that, yes, there is a bright future for literature. René Steinke has written her best work yet.” —DARIN STRAUSS, author of Half a Life
“René Steinke’s Friendswood is as arresting, haunting, and heartbreaking as contemporary narrative comes. With lyrical and emotional depth, with an empathy only the greatest writers possess, Steinke shines a light into the shadows of the American spirit and doesn’t for a moment avert her gaze.”
—DAVID GRAND, author of Louse and Mount Terminus
About the author:
René Steinke is the author of the novels The Fires and Holy Skirts, which was a finalist for the 2005 National Book Award. She is the Director of the MFA program in creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She lives in Brooklyn.
FRIENDSWOOD • RENÉ STEINKE• Riverhead Books
Publication Date: August 14, 2014 •ISBN: 9780698144798 • Price: $27.95