Guests on Earth

Guests on Earth

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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616202538
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 10/15/2013
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About 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

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Guests on Earth: A Novel 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 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.
MaryHelenSheriff 8 days ago
Guests on Earth explores a strangely idyllic hospital for the mentally ill in the 1930s and 40s. The characters are lovable, troubled people whom the doctors (and the authors) treat with respect. The novel does much to humanize mental illness. I loved how it portrayed the intermingling creativity and mental health. Lee Smith's writing never disappoints.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story began strong but then seemed to scatter mid story, it became too confusing with all the characters.
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