Guests on Earth

Guests on Earth

3.8 4
by Lee Smith
     
 

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“Reading Lee Smith ranks among the great pleasures of American fiction . . . Gives evidence again of the  grace and insight that distinguish her work.” —Robert Stone, author of Death of the Black-Haired Girl

It’s 1936 when orphaned thirteen-year-old Evalina Toussaint is admitted to Highland Hospital, a mental

Overview

“Reading Lee Smith ranks among the great pleasures of American fiction . . . Gives evidence again of the  grace and insight that distinguish her work.” —Robert Stone, author of Death of the Black-Haired Girl

It’s 1936 when orphaned thirteen-year-old Evalina Toussaint is admitted to Highland Hospital, a mental institution in Asheville, North Carolina, known for its innovative treatments for nervous disorders and addictions. Taken under the wing of the hospital’s most notable patient, Zelda Fitzgerald, Evalina witnesses cascading events that lead up to the tragic fire of 1948 that killed nine women in a locked ward, Zelda among them. Author Lee Smith has created, through a seamless blending of fiction and fact, a mesmerizing novel about a world apart--in which art and madness are luminously intertwined.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
10/01/2013
It's 1936 in Asheville, NC, when Smith introduces readers to the residents of Highland Hospital, directed by Dr. Robert S. Carroll, known for innovative treatments that include diet, exercise, and activities such as art and gardening but also insulin and electric shock therapies. The novel, which blends true events and fiction, centers on Evalina Touissaint, the orphaned daughter of a New Orleans "courtesan." Evalina shares her experiences and observations of life at Highland and her impressions of her fellow patients, a group that includes none other than Zelda Fitzgerald. Through a variety of circumstances, Evalina is at the hospital on and off for many years, and she is the reader's window into this unique time and place, as events lead up to a terrible fire that kills nine women on a locked floor of the hospital, including Zelda. The cause of the fire is still unknown today. VERDICT Those who enjoyed Smith's previous work (e.g., Fair and Tender Ladies; The Last Girls) will certainly appreciate this absorbing book, as will those interested in the history of treating mental illness in the United States and fans of Southern or Appalachian fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 6/24/13.]—Shaunna E. Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Smith has created a compelling, disturbing but also uplifting narrative inspired by the 1948 fire that swept through Highland Hospital in Asheville, killing nine women, among them Zelda Fitzgerald.”
The Herald Sun

“Treading the fine line between sanity and insanity, this historical novel imagines the 12 years proceeding the 1948 fire that engulfed a North Carolina mental hospital and killed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s estranged wife, Zelda.”
Ms. Magazine

“With this book, Smith will broaden her readership to draw in those fascinated by the Fitzgerald ethos while entertaining her perennial fans with the local lore and down home accents behind the scenes.”
Foreword Reviews

“Perennially best-selling Smith presents an impeccably researched historical novel that reveals the early twentieth century’s antediluvian attitudes toward mental health and women’s independence.”
Booklist

“This is Lee Smith at her powerful best, writing the South she knows through the eyes of a woman who lived it.”
—Adriana Trigiani, author of Big Stone Gap and The Shoemaker’s Wife

The Washington Post
“Smith’s well-developed characters, rich historical detail and easy prose create a novel that some may call her best yet, and which it just may be.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

BookPage
“Well-researched historical detail blends with fiction to create memorable characters in a unique setting during an interesting era. Emily Woo Zeller’s lively narration keeps the listener engaged.”
Library Journal

Booklist
“This is a carefully researched, utterly charming novel. By the time you finish it, you will fall in love with these fascinating lives, too.”
The Washington Post

Sound Commentary
“Delivers on all counts, entrancing readers with a brilliant tapestry that falls inside the confines of historical fiction, yet defies genre with a hypnotic narrative.”
BookPage

From the Publisher

“[An] elegant historical novel . . . Lee Smith is an assured and accomplished writer, and her use of Zelda as a subject in Guests on Earth is brilliant . . . This is a carefully researched, utterly charming novel. By the time you finish it, you fall in love with these fascinating lives, too.” —The Washington Post

Guests on Earth is a mesmerizing novel about a time and place where creativity and passion, theory and medicine, fact and fiction, are luminously intertwined.” —BookPage

“Indeed, most of the high spirited, rebellious, outspoken women who populate Guests on Earth would not now be considered insane at all. Smith’s imaginative, layered story illuminates the complexity of their collective plight—to be put in towers until they had no choice but to behave—and rescues them one by one.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“[An] engaging and engrossing novel . . . Smith’s well-developed characters, rich historical detail and easy prose create a novel that some may call her best yet, and which it just may be.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Those who enjoyed Smith’s previous work (e.g., Fair and Tender Ladies; The Last Girls) will certainly appreciate this absorbing book, as will those interested in the history of treating mental illness in the United States and fans of Southern or Appalachian fiction.” —Library Journal

“With Guests on Earth, Lee Smith shines new light on a shadowy, complex subject . . . She offers a broader historical perspective--and with it, a captivating, inimitable voice.” —The Raleigh News and Observer

“Treading the fine line between sanity and insanity, this historical novel imagines the 12 years proceeding the 1948 fire that engulfed a North Carolina mental hospital and killed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s estranged wife, Zelda.” —Ms. Magazine

“Engaging . . . Touching.” —Publishers Weekly

“This is Lee Smith at her powerful best, writing the South she knows through the eyes of a woman who lived it.” —Adriana Trigiani, author of Big Stone Gap and The Shoemaker's Wife

“In Guests on Earth Lee Smith gives evidence again of the grace and insight that distinguish her work. Her characters are realized with singular intensity, the most vivid interior life, and flawless dialogue. Reading Lee Smith ranks among the great pleasures of American fiction.” —Robert Stone, author of Death of the Black-Haired Girl and Dog Soldiers

Review quotes

“[An] elegant historical novel . . . Lee Smith is an assured and accomplished writer, and her use of Zelda as a subject in Guests on Earth is brilliant . . . This is a carefully researched, utterly charming novel. By the time you finish it, you fall in love with these fascinating lives, too.” —The Washington Post

Guests on Earth is a mesmerizing novel about a time and place where creativity and passion, theory and medicine, fact and fiction, are luminously intertwined.” —BookPage

“Indeed, most of the high spirited, rebellious, outspoken women who populate Guests on Earth would not now be considered insane at all. Smith’s imaginative, layered story illuminates the complexity of their collective plight—to be put in towers until they had no choice but to behave—and rescues them one by one.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“[An] engaging and engrossing novel . . . Smith’s well-developed characters, rich historical detail and easy prose create a novel that some may call her best yet, and which it just may be.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Those who enjoyed Smith’s previous work (e.g., Fair and Tender Ladies; The Last Girls) will certainly appreciate this absorbing book, as will those interested in the history of treating mental illness in the United States and fans of Southern or Appalachian fiction.” —Library Journal

“With Guests on Earth, Lee Smith shines new light on a shadowy, complex subject . . . She offers a broader historical perspective--and with it, a captivating, inimitable voice.” —The Raleigh News and Observer

“Treading the fine line between sanity and insanity, this historical novel imagines the 12 years proceeding the 1948 fire that engulfed a North Carolina mental hospital and killed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s estranged wife, Zelda.” —Ms. Magazine

“Engaging . . . Touching.” —Publishers Weekly

“This is Lee Smith at her powerful best, writing the South she knows through the eyes of a woman who lived it.” —Adriana Trigiani, author of Big Stone Gap and The Shoemaker's Wife

“In Guests on Earth Lee Smith gives evidence again of the grace and insight that distinguish her work. Her characters are realized with singular intensity, the most vivid interior life, and flawless dialogue. Reading Lee Smith ranks among the great pleasures of American fiction.” —Robert Stone, author of Death of the Black-Haired Girl and Dog Soldiers

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781616203467
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
10/15/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
60,921
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Born in the small coal-mining town of Grundy, Virginia, Lee Smith began writing stories at the age of nine and selling them for a nickel apiece. Since then, she has written seventeen works of fiction, including Fair and Tender Ladies, Oral History, and, most recently, Guests on Earth. She has received many awards, including the North Carolina Award for Literature and an Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; her novel The Last Girls was a New York Times bestseller as well as winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. She lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, with her husband, the writer Hal Crowther. Visit her at www.leesmith.com.

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Guests on Earth: A Novel 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
PierresFamily More than 1 year ago
As usual, Ms. Smith crafted a work of art. She managed to blend history and fiction into a superb, "hard to put down" story. Her word pictures were so vivid, and characters so well-drawn, that I felt I knew them personally and in fact, it was if I were right there with them. Though she has given us a tremendous number of consistently terrific novels, my only complaint about Lee Smith is that she doesn't write even MORE! But then again, she's only human. Nevertheless, I can't wait until her next novel!! So greedy am I. : )
Delphimo More than 1 year ago
Lee Smith presents an interesting story based on Zelda Fitzgerald's sojourn and death in Asheville's Highland Mental Hospital. The story centers on mental illness and the treatment for this illness in the 1940's and 1950's. The novel follows a gifted young woman through her interaction with Zelda and through life in the beautiful and rugged Asheville, NC. The side trips into mountain life and the various characters of New Orleans and Asheville depict an enjoyable story. Lee Smith's writing makes the reader feel the cold winter and hear the sad mountain songs. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
Ariesgrl More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars Highland Hospital is located in North Carolina and is the famed institute that treated Zelda Fitzgerald. Evalina Toussaint is a young girl who loves her Mom and her hometown of New Orleans, but when her Mom tragically has an affair with the wrong man, Evalina’s world is torn apart. Sent to the institute to receive treatment for her grief, she meets Zelda and finally begins to feel like she is at home again. This book states that it is about the famed and mysterious Zelda Fitzgerald, but in reality it is the story of this young woman trying to find a way to survive her grief. Though there is never a true diagnosis for Evalina, readers will feel her pain as though it is their own. The cultural back drop of New Orleans and the Appalachian Mountains is beautiful.  The book starts out slow and has several long moments throughout the book. However, it does provide an insider’s view into the treatment for patients during the beginning of the century. Notes: This review was written for the My Sister's Books bookstore.  This review was originally posted on the Ariesgrl Book Reviews website.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written about a subject (mental illness) that I would not have ordinarily pursued, by the author wove into it a charming story of a young girl who made the most of every situation.
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