Sunday, May 1, 2016

"New Charity Blues"

Camille Griep lives just north of Seattle with her partner, Adam, and their dog Dutch(ess). Born in Billings, Montana, she moved to Southern California to attend Claremont McKenna College, graduating with a dual degree in Biology and Literature.

She has since sold short fiction and creative nonfiction to dozens of online and print magazines. She is the editor of Easy Street and is a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. Letters to Zell is her first novel.

Griep applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, New Charity Blues, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I choose my words carefully. “I want to understand the Blessing. But I want to understand, even before that, if the Spirit really ... I mean, why we didn’t get sick.”

Almost in unison the three of them shove their sleeves up. A faint blue dot pulses on the insides of their biceps. “This.”

“But I don’t have that,” I say.

Cas reaches for my arm. “May I?” I nod. She rolls up my sleeve and runs her thumb up the inside of my arm. It feels like normal pressure until she hits a spot that feels as if she’s gouging me with an icicle.

“Ouch!” I yank my arm out of her reach. But when I do, lo and behold, there is the same faint blue dot. “What did you do to me?”

“I didn’t do anything. You’ve always had it. It was the inoculation the Bishop gave when he first got here. Maybe you don’t remember. There was bird flu or something, and most of us took it.”

Nausea settles over me. “My mom didn’t.”

“I’m sorry,” Cas says. I wish she’d stop being sorry.

I heave my thoughts back to now. “How come it wasn’t glowing before?”

Len snorts. “Maybe you should’ve scrubbed a little harder in the shower this morning.”
New Charity Blues is a post-pandemic re-imagining of the Trojan War set in a contemporary American west. Cressyda (Syd) Turner has returned to her isolated hometown of New Charity under the guise of settling her late father’s affairs, but, quietly, she plots to open the town’s reservoir that will allow water to flow into the hydroelectric plant that powers Syd’s beloved City.

But even the best-laid revenge plots are rarely simple. On page 69, after an awkward dinner party, Syd convenes with her childhood best friends. The discomfort of the oddly formal evening follows them outdoors. Syd is at once beloved and outsider, friend and enemy. She carefully tries to explain that she is not only there to understand her father’s death, which has left her with only one living relative, but why her hometown has changed in so many ways.

When her friends point out the inoculation scars on their arms, glowing blue thanks to a large, magical ward of protection on the reservoir itself, Syd receives one of the first pieces of a puzzle that will reveal itself throughout the story. She’d barely noticed the scar in the City, but now that she’s near the ward, she too, sees and feels the influence of magic, of things being not what they seem.

This scene is a standoff of sorts, as well as a capitulation. Syd desperately wants and needs the help of her friends. They want to help, but need her to be careful, not just for her sake, but for theirs, as well. In this vignette we see trepidation, reticence, and caution, but we also see respect, love, and kindness between people whose friendship supersedes fear.

In this way, the scene is a perfect sample of New Charity Blues. It is a story of characters weighing all they have against all they’ve lost in the face of increasingly insurmountable odds, ever hopeful of a bright future together.
Visit Camille Griep's website.

The Page 69 Test: Letters to Zell.

Coffee with a Canine: Camille Griep and Dutchess Marie Siefker-Griep.

--Marshal Zeringue