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  1. Books

Novelist, USF professor Karen Brown drawn by the voices of stories of loss

Karen Brown

Brown teaches creative writing at the University of South Florida and is the author of several books, including The Longing of Wayward Girls and the short story collection Pins and Needles. On Nov. 17, Brown will be a featured author at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading, where she will discuss her latest book, The Clairvoyants. The novel centers around a young woman, Martha Mary, who is visited by more than a few apparitions.

What's on your nightstand?

I just finished The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg. It is an eerie, noir-ish novel about a woman, Clare, who sees her dead husband while in Cuba for a horror film festival. Her husband was supposed to attend Havana's annual Festival of New Latin American Cinema before he went out for a walk and was struck by a car. The writing is lush and eloquent, the situation surreal.

I am also just starting Heartbreaker by Claudia Dey, another wild, imaginative novel with an opening mystery, the disappearance of Pony Darlene Fontaine's mother, Billie Jean. If this sounds like a thriller, it isn't, not exactly. The novel takes place in 1985 in a settlement founded years before by a cult leader. The inhabitants of the territory never leave, except for Billie Jean, who grabs the truck keys and flees her house barefoot one October morning. Dey's territory is self-sufficient and its characters live by codes that reveal its cult origins, but it's the voice that draws me into the book. It is one that feels as if it comes distinctly from this isolated world.

Piper Castillo, Times staff writer