Guests on Earth by Lee Smith
It’s 1936 when orphaned thirteen-year-old Evalina Toussaint is admitted to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, a mental institution known for its innovative treatments for nervous disorders and addictions. Taken under the wing of the hospital’s most notable patient, Zelda Fitzgerald, Evalina witnesses the cascading events leading up to the tragic fire of 1948 that killed nine women in a locked ward, Zelda among them.
Author Lee Smith has created, through her artful blending of fiction and fact, a mesmerizing novel about a world apart—a time and a place where creativity and passion, theory and medicine, tragedy and transformation, are luminously intertwined.
The author of thirteen novels and three collections of short stories, Lee Smith’s work has been made into the musical drama Good Ol’ Girls, and there are three one-woman shows that dramatize her fiction, centering on her characters Ivy Rowe and Molly Petree, plus the characters from the musical drama. Her awards include the 1979 and 1981 O. Henry Awards; the 1984 North Carolina Award in Fiction; the John Dos Passos Award for Literature (1987); two Sir Walter Raleigh Awards of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association (1983 and 1989); a Lyndhurst Grant (1990-92); the Robert Penn Warren Prize for Fiction (1991); and a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Award.
Smith is a member of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.