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APSU hosts booksigning for APSU alumna Paula Wall Feb. 24

Austin Peay State University National Alumni Association will host a reception and book signing for alumna and acclaimed novelist Paula Wall from 4-6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 24, at the Pace Alumni Center at Emerald Hill.

Walls first fiction book, The Rock Orchard, was released to bookstores and online book outlets yesterday. If prepress reviews are a predictor of things to come, Wall has a bright future as a novelist.
Austin Peay State University National Alumni Association will host a reception and book signing for alumna and acclaimed novelist Paula Wall from 4-6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 24, at the Pace Alumni Center at Emerald Hill.

Wall's first fiction book, “The Rock Orchard,” was released to bookstores and online book outlets yesterday. If prepress reviews are a predictor of things to come, Wall has a bright future as a novelist.

Four major publishing houses bid on the rights to “The Rock Orchard,” which is being likened to “Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” and “Chocolat.”

“There is no other book out there like it,” said Emily Bestler of Atria/Simon & Schuster of North America, to whom Wall awarded publication rights. The book also has been purchased for publication in the United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal and Israel.

Prior to release, “The Rock Orchard” was named by Barnes & Noble as its Discover Great New Writers pick. Previous picks include “Girl with the Pearl Earring,” “Snow Falling on Cedars” and “The Lovely Bones.”

Ingram Books, the world's largest book distributor, named “The Rock Orchard” a Premier Pick for 2005, putting it in the category of previous Premier Picks such as “The Lovely Bones” and “The Illuminator.”

“The Rock Orchard,” which the American Book Association has chosen as a Top 10 Pick for February, revolves around life in Leaper's Fork, Tenn., a tobacco-trading town on the banks of the Cumberland and Red rivers near historic Fort Donelson.

Like many Bible Belt towns of the early 1900s, Leaper's Fork has a church on every corner, their spires stretching heavenward. Many of the town's stately mansions, with beautiful facades facing the river, are rotten at their core, much like the inhabitants.

The book's characters are unforgettable: Southern gentlemen who are not gentlemen at all, who measure other men by their heritage, not by their good deeds, whose accents are thick as molasses and whose morals are a loose as the town gossip's tongue. The plethora of frigid wives who keep their husbands at arm's length are in cold contrast to the wonderfully wicked women who welcome those men with open arms.

Central to the story are three generations of strong-willed Belle women, all of whom have the Midas Touch as well as a bit of the Devil in them, as revealed by their sheer joy in tossing societal mores to the wind.

Dramatic tension between godliness and worldliness is reflected in the attraction of Thomas, a preacher whose soul is drying up for lack of love, and the enchanting Charlotte Belle, in whose arms Thomas finds salvation. It's this couple's unlikely love story that ultimately changes the emotional climate and perhaps the course of history in Leaper's Fork.

Wall's titillating plot and unique characters, her clever use of metaphor, witty turn-of-phrase and oft-bawdy double entendre juxtaposed with Biblical allusions leave the reader wanting more and hoping there's another novel by Wall in the works.

For more information about the reception and book signing, call (931) 221-7979.
—Dennie Burke