February 2012

Fight or flight for a working-class man

By Amy Franklin-Willis
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Recently divorced, middle-aged and generally down on his luck, Ezekiel Cooper doesn’t know where he’s going when he packs up his loyal dog, Tucker, and leaves his hometown of Clayton, Tennessee. Zeke just knows he’s running—running from memories of his broken marriage, from his twin brother’s tragic death and from the many secrets that have shattered his family. Through the alternating, pitch-perfect voices of Zeke and his complicated mother Lillian, Alabama writer Amy Franklin-Willis tells the story of the Cooper family from the 1940s to the 1980s in The Lost Saints of Tennessee.

Lillian is a difficult woman—a mother who loves her five children, but can’t help but feel that they have derailed her dreams. Zeke is her golden child, the one she’s sure will get out of their small town and make something of himself. But things don’t exactly turn out as planned, and his time at the University of Virginia is cut short. Then his brother’s mysterious death changes everything. Eventually, Zeke finds himself back in Virginia, with his mother’s cousins Georgia and Osborne, trying to reclaim his life, his sanity and his family.

In her powerful debut, Franklin-Willis expertly crafts a Southern novel that stands with genre classics like The Prince of Tides and Bastard out of Carolina. The Lost Saints of Tennessee is a measured, slow-burning book, with complex, compelling characters and secrets that reveal themselves slowly. A beautiful novel from a talented new author, The Lost Saints of Tennessee proves that in great literature, as in life, we must always expect the unexpected.

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The Lost Saints of Tennessee

The Lost Saints of Tennessee

By Amy Franklin-Willis
Atlantic Monthly
ISBN 9780802120052

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