Friday, September 25, 2015

"The Poe Estate"

Polly Shulman’s latest novel is The Poe Estate. She is also the author of The Grimm Legacy (a Bank Street Best Book and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Finalist), its companion The Wells Bequest, and Enthusiasm (a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice). She has worked as a magazine editor, a newspaper columnist, a library page, and a licensed private investigator. She has written for many newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Discover, Newsday, Salon, Slate, Scientific American, Archaeology, and The Village Voice. She majored in math at Yale and grew up in New York City, where she lives with her husband in a tall old building guarded by gargoyles.

Shulman applied the Page 69 Test to The Poe Estate and reported the following:
From Page 69:
A Bat and a Broomstick

That night, I was awoken again. I’m going to kill that ghost, whoever it is, I thought. So what if it’s already dead?

But it wasn’t a ghost this time. It was a bat.

In theory, I love bats, ever since I did a report on them in sixth grade. They eat mosquitoes. They pollinate banana trees. They’re mammals just like us, but they have a whole extra sense—echolocation—and they can fly! Imagine being able to fly!

Loving bats in theory is one thing; loving the one that woke me up at 3:09 a.m. with its frantic twittering is another.

How did it get into the room, anyway, with the windows shut? Did it fly down the chimney? I jumped out of bed, pulling the bed curtains shut behind me, and hauled a window open with a shriek of rusty iron. The bat was flying around the room in irregular, darting circles, occasionally smashing into the wall.

“The window’s that way,” I said, pointing helpfully.

The bat flew into one of the closed windows instead.
Sukie, the teenage narrator, has recently moved in with her elderly cousin Hepzibah in her ancestral family mansion. Sukie’s used to ghosts; her bossy dead sister, Kitty, has been haunting her for several years. (Well, Kitty thinks of it less as haunting and more as making sure her little sister doesn’t get into trouble.) Lately, though, some older, less familiar spirits have been appearing, asking Sukie for help. But how can she fix their problems, when she can barely help her living family?

Like the other books in the Grimm Legacy series—fantasy adventure novels for readers age 10 and up—The Poe Estate imagines a world in which powerful objects from fiction really exist. The first two books in the series borrow their powerful objects from fairy tales and science fiction; in The Poe Estate, it’s haunted mirrors, ships, clocks, mansions, and other items from classic American ghost stories and horror fiction. On page 69, Sukie is about to discover that the broom she’s been using to sweep her new room is really a witch’s flying broomstick (from a Hawthorne short story).

Page 69 is a good example of the book’s mix of humor and adventure. It’s the beginning of a chapter, so it’s short. Other pages take a deeper, more poignant look at Sukie’s madcap journey to break free of her past and its ghosts.
Visit Polly Shulman's website.

Writers Read: Polly Shulman.

--Marshal Zeringue