Old Lovegood Girls
by Godwin, Gail

"From the bestselling, award-winning author of Flora and Evensong comes the story of two remarkable women and the complex friendship between them that spans decades. When the dean of Lovegood Junior College for Girls decides to pair Feron Hood with MerryJellicoe as roommates in 1958, she has no way of knowing the far-reaching consequences of the match. Feron, who has narrowly escaped from a dark past, instantly takes to Merry and her composed personality. Surrounded by the traditions and four-story Doric columns of Lovegood, the girls-and their friendship-begin to thrive. But underneath their fierce friendship is a stronger, stranger bond, one comprised of secrets, rivalry, and influence-with neither of them able to predict that Merry is about to lose everything she grew up taking for granted, and that their time together will be cut short. Ten years later, Feron and Merry haven't spoken since college. Life has led them into vastly different worlds. But, as Feron says, once someone is inside your "reference aura," she stays there forever. And when each woman finds herself in need of the other's essence, that spark-that remarkable affinity, unbroken by time-between them is reignited, and their lives begin to shift as a result. Luminous and literary,Old Lovegood Girls is the story of a powerful friendship between talented writers, two college friends who have formed a bond that takes them through decades of a fast-changing world, finding and losing and finding again the one friendship that defines them"-

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed books, including the novels Grief Cottage, Flora, Father Melancholy's Daughter, and Evensong, and Publishing, a memoir. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Woodstock, New York. www.gailgodwin.com

*Starred Review* Lovegood College is an all-women sanctuary of southern etiquette and covert subversion. In 1958, the new dean, Susan Fox, who has survived a rough patch, must choose a roommate for a new student, Feron Hood, who also seems to have escaped a dire predicament. She pairs her with tobacco company heiress Meredith Grace Jellicoe, aptly called Merry. As opposites, the girls are instantly intrigued with each other, then find common purpose in their desire to write. Godwin (Grief Cottage, 2017), a word-perfect novelist of exceptional psychological refinement who has published a memoir about her struggles as a writer, infuses this tale of intrepid women with a profound inquiry into the ethics of storytelling and how literature can chart a way through tragedies. Feron and Merry are abruptly separated and end up living radically different lives as they each endure terrible loss. Merry takes over the farm just as tobacco falls from "king" to "murderer," eventually finding solace in a Bible group. Feron works in New York and acquires a generous literary mentor who encourages her to "cultivate the strangeness." The women remain connected in delectably plotted ways and maintain a suspenseful, decades-long correspondence. Secret traumas are slowly revealed, adjacent characters are magnetizing, and Godwin, as fluent in humor as in sorrow, sagely illuminates matters of faith, art, ambition, and generosity while celebrating change and steadfastness, friendship and love.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Godwin's mastery and following grow with each book, and literary fiction lovers will seek out this intricately structured and emotionally rich tale. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Veteran Godwin's latest (Grief Cottage, 2017, etc.) tracks a half-century friendship between two very different yet oddly compatible women. The dean and dorm mistress of Lovegood College pair Feron Hood and Merry Jellicoe as roommates in 1958, hoping that sunny, outgoing Merry will be a steadying influence on Feron, who has recently lost her alcoholic mother and fled from an abusive stepfather. The girls do indeed form a lasting bond even though Merry leaves after a single semester to run the family tobacco farm when her parents are killed in a plane crash. They have both taken their first steps as writers under the guidance of Literature and Composition teacher Maud Petrie, and during their mostly long-distance relationship, Feron will be goaded to write three novels by Merry's occasional magazine publications; she is at work on a fourth about their friendship as the book closes. The two women rarely meet in person, and Feron is bad about answering letters, but we see that they remain important in each other's thoughts. Godwin unfolds their stories in a meditative, elliptical fashion, circling back to reveal def ining moments that include tragic losses, unexpected love, and nurturing friendships. Self-contained, uncommunicative Feron seems the more withholding character, but Merry voices one of the novel's key insights: "Everyone has secrets no one else should know" while Feron reveals essential truths about her life in her novels. Maud Petrie and Lovegood dean Susan Fox, each of whom has secrets of her own, continue as strong presences for Feron and Merry, who have been shaped by Lovegood more enduringly than they might have anticipated. Feron's courtly Uncle Rowan and blunt Aunt Mabel, Merry's quirky brother Ritchie, devoted manager Mr. Jack, and a suave Navy veteran with intimate links to both women are among the many nuanced characters drawn by Godwin with their human contradictions and complexities on full display. A closing letter from Dean Fox movingly reiterates the novel's conjoined themes of continuity and change. Intelligent, reflective, satisfying fiction from an old master. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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