Friday, September 12, 2014

"The Sheltering"

Mark Powell's novels include Prodigals (nominated for the Cabell First Novelist Award), Blood Kin (winner of the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel), and The Dark Corner. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Breadloaf Writers' Conference. In 2009 he received the Chaffin Award for contributions to Appalachian literature. Powell holds degrees from Yale Divinity School, the University of South Carolina, and the Citadel. He is an associate professor of English at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, and for three years taught a fiction workshop at Lawtey Correctional Institute, a level II prison in Raiford, Florida.

Powell applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Sheltering, and reported the following:
Amazingly—because who knew such a thing could be done?—The Sheltering fails the page 69 test. Or perhaps it passes with such blinding fury and speed that—nah, it doesn’t. No Spoiler Alert here: page 69 reads PART THREE. (In its defense, the letters are large and the font is elegant.) But maybe this is the key to the book after all. The Sheltering follows two slowly, but inevitably connecting plotlines and what could be more representative than balancing between the two? In the first, Luther Redding flies a drone over Afghanistan from the bowels of a Tampa Air Force Base. When he dies in a car wreck, erased as quick as a far-away target, his wife and two daughters are left with little more than the aftershocks. In the second plotline, two brothers (one home from Iraq, the other released from prison) set off on a drug-fueled road trip. One narrative is about absence, about the way in which our American lives are so often lived by proxy. The other is about the visceral nature of being alive, how, despite our best efforts, we still live in bodies. Our lives seem to float between the two—our hallucinatory swipe-screen personas versus the hunger of flesh—so perhaps it’s fitting that page 69 does the same?
Learn more about The Sheltering at the University of South Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue