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Paula Saunders has described her own debut novel, The Distance Home, as a 'completely American story.' Especially, she says, because 'it's a story of division – of the haves and have-nots, the accepted and rejected.'
The Distance Home is a novel of the Midwest – a tale of ambition, aggression and family faultlines – and it was one of the strongest US debuts of 2018. Praised by the likes of Jennifer Egan and Michael Cunningham, and positively reviewed in the New York Times, it's a family epic that explores a pervasive and destructive obsession with success and failure. The book draws on Saunders's own early life in rural South Dakota and her experiences as a gifted ballet dancer. It tells the story of young sibling dancers in Rapid City in the 1960s and their efforts to move beyond the sometimes corrosive influence of their parents.
Saunders's novel squares up to the big existential questions – how are we shaped by our parents, our culture and our place in history and geography? – and searches for answers with compassion, sensitivity and insight.
Saunders is a thrilling new literary voice. She’ll join us in May to talk American dreams and American dysfunction, upstairs at the Athenaeum Theatre.
Readings will be our bookseller at this event.
Paula Saunders grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota. She danced as an apprentice with the Harkness Ballet in New York City under the direction of David Howard. She is a graduate of Barnard College as well as the Syracuse University creative writing program, where she was a student of Tobias Wolff and Douglas Unger. She was awarded a post-graduate Albert Schweitzer Humanities Fellowship at the State University of New York at Albany, under then-Schweitzer chair Toni Morrison. Her first book, The Distance Home, was long-listed for The Center for Fiction’s 2018 First Novel Prize. She lives in California with her husband. They have two grown daughters.
Michael Williams is the Director of the Wheeler Centre.
$25 adults and $20 concession, plus 50c booking fee. Book your tickets
An alchemy of writers. An explosion of ideas.
Do you like your military history with a side of hip-hop? How about fabulist fiction beside trailblazing journalism? This May, take your brain out for a spin. You’ll meet Pulitzer-winners, YA stars, eminent historians, poets, rappers and some of the world’s best living novelists.