Karl Luntta (Botswana 1978-80)
A swimming pool in the Kalahari Desert, the ice skates of a boy in a wheelchair, and a midnight train ride in the cool African night form the backdrop of the eight diverse stories in Swimming. Some of the stories take place in Africa, others in the United States, but in all of them, the characters confront cultural and racial differences, both historically and in the present. In “A Virgin Twice,” an American teaching in Botswana struggles to understand a village’s response to a violent assault. In “Jeff Call Beth,” a white American father attempts to connect with the daughter he left behind in Africa. And in the title story, “Swimming,” a Danish expatriate dying of cancer decides to build an Olympic-sized swimming pool in the Kalahari Desert. All of these characters are clinging to emotional survival in a complex world, confronted by a moment or element of their lives that is perplexing, perhaps devastating, but which they need to resolve.
Of the collection, John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962-64) wrote: “ Swimming takes us from Botswana to America and back to Africa, in short stories that capture humanity from childhood to old age. Luntta’s great strength: crystallizing the moments when lives are changed and the future (as well as one’s memories of the past) is altered.”
Karl Luntta is the author of the novel Know It by Heart as well as numerous travel books. His stories have appeared in International Quarterly, Talking River, and Baltimore Review. He lives outside Albany, New York.
Landfall by Ellen Urbani (Guatemala 1991-93)
Forthcoming on August 29, 2015, the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall.
Rosebud Howard almost survives. She charges through the Lower Ninth Ward, beating the wall of floodwater by a half-block. She clambers out of an attic, onto a roof, into a rowboat. But her grueling trek to Tuscaloosa, in search of help for her family, ends when she’s hit and killed by a car laden with supplies for Hurricane Katrina victims. Passenger Rose Aikens, orphaned by the crash, climbs away from the wreck after lacing the dead girl’s sneakers onto her own feet. When she discovers they share not only shoes but a name and a birth year, Rose embarks upon a guilt-assuaging odyssey to retrace Rosebud’s last steps and locate her remaining kin. The stories and destinies of these two teenagers-one black, one white-converge in Landfall, giving voice to the dead and demonstrating how strangers, with perseverance and forgiveness, can unite to reconstruct each other’s shattered family histories.
Landfall is earning early buzz from bestselling authors, booksellers, librarians, and industry leaders, including Pat Conroy, who called it “a hell of a book” and Mark Suchomel, president of client services for Perseus Books Group, who said “I absolutely loved it and rank it as one of the best books I have read in years.”
Tony D’Souza (Ivory Coast 2000–02, Madagascar 2002–03) said of the novel, “A deeply soulful novel….Landfall recalls Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God for the strength of the women in its pages, and their resilience despite immeasurable loss.”
“Our committee fell in love with Landfall and its strong mothers and daughters,” said Laura Stanfill, publisher of Forest Avenue Press. “In this luminous, warm, heartbreaking family novel, Ellen tells the untold stories, the secrets held tight, that would otherwise have been lost to the storm.”
Ellen Urbani is the author of When I Was Elena (2006) a BookSense Notable selection. Her writing has appears in The New York Times and numerous anthologies. A Southern expat, she now lives in Oregon.