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Out of Peel Tree
140 pages; Vandalia Press
The people in Laura Long’s first novel move in and out of Peel Tree, a small town in Appalachia struggling with family secrets, barely-held-together marriages and regrettable mistakes like, say, having an affair with the manager of the Dairy Queen. And yet, moment after moment in this slim, tender book explores those shimmers of happiness that define our lives, regardless of our circumstances. For the first time ever, 60-year-old Essie crosses the West Virginia state line to go on vacation in Florida, where the sun on her face makes her feel as if she’s put on “a brand new dress as bright as daffodils.” In a later chapter, young Corina swings on the porch examining “two yellow butterflies flitted around each other, whimsical doodles in the air,” instead of her alcoholic mother. This is prose as joyful and complex as the joy it describes. Expect to levitate along with the characters.
— Leigh Newman