Novel Ideas

Elizabeth Burns has a second book out.

I reviewed her first book – The Silken Thread here on the blog a couple of years ago, and more recently have shared some of her photographs from her travels in India, as well as a guest post about the same trip. Part 2 will be up in the next week or so.

With her new book (No Direction Home – the title cribbed from a Bob Dylan lyric), Elizabeth (Liz), forays into the world of fiction. Her protagonist, Hunter Grayson leads a pretty directionless existence – hence the title – and seems to have little in the way of self-esteem or self-respect, despite her good looks and the good fortune of having been born into a milieu that affords her the luxury of travel – coming and going from job to country as she pleases.

Growing up in Milwaukee, her upbringing is classic Mid-Western – bourgeois and conventional – but Hunter never feels as if she fits in. Her senior year spent abroad at a private school in England, finds her exploring the outer limits of Punk,

By the time we meet Hunter, she’s traveled the globe, teaching English in far-flung locales, while having a series of affairs with a series of dubious men. Hunter is promiscuous and clearly not a great judge of character. At least when it comes to the lovers she chooses. Graphic sex scenes told in straight forward and colloquial prose are reflective of an entire generation who rendered sexual taboos meaningless, while also capturing the hollow emptiness of what Erica Jong termed “the zipless fuck.”

In the book’s opening chapter, Hunter who is in South America at the time, learns that a fatal car accident has left her orphaned. In a state of shock, she returns to Milwaukee to the home she grew up in and falls into a deep state of depression and despair as she flashes back on the seemingly perfect lives of the perfect couple who brought her into the world.

An old friend from her school days – he’s gay but we learn he was once her boyfriend and possibly the original source of her lack of self-worth – encourages her to get out of the house (and out of her head), and find a job. She does just that, and it is at the local bookshop where she works, that we meet the characters who drive the story to its romantic, happy ending.

But not before we are taken on a journey that twists and turns and falls into deeper and deeper murky pools of darkness, deception, despair and more death. The story really begins and ends in Wisconsin, with a detour into the mountainous region of northern New Mexico, playing itself out in a fictional town called Chamiso, which is a barely disguised version of Taos.

I will not give anymore of it away, but suffice it to say, Liz has written an engaging book, that draws on her life experience to some degree, but is in no way an autobiographical tale. For one thing, her parents are still very much alive.  All writers write about what they know, and when Liz and I met for lunch recently, she told me the germ of the idea for this book, came to her in France, but she realised in order to make it authentic and believable, she had to set it in a place she was actually familiar with.

The book took five years to write. Liz is a busy woman, with a full-time gig working on the small farm where she and her partner Andrew Cox live. Andrew’s two children go back and forth between their parents, and Liz considers them her step kids after years of having had them in her life.

No Direction Home is a fast paced, easy to read in a couple of sittings book. The perfect travel companion for a long haul flight where you want to shut out the world (or at least the passenger in the seat next to you.) Once into it, you won’t want to put it down – curiosity alone will have you turning pages.

No Direction Home is available via Amazon and I’ve included the link below this post.


Images c/o Elizabeth Burns