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- Category: Book Buzz
Swimming Betweeen Worlds by Elaine Neil Orr
“A perceptive and powerful story told with generosity and grace. The struggle of its deftly-drawn young characters to navigate the monumental changes—cultural and personal— that the civil rights movement brought to the South is rich and compelling.”
—Charles Frazier, New York Times bestselling author
“Poignant and agonizing, the novel captures the South the moment before the gun went off, prefiguring our current national trauma around race and society.”
—Fenton Johnson, author of The Man Who Loved Birds
“A blistering story told by a gifted writer. From the moment I began this compelling novel, it followed me around; the riveting plot and real-life characters would not let me go.”
—Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August
Tacker Hart left his home in North Carolina as a local high school football hero, but returns in disgrace after being fired from a prestigious architectural assignment in West Africa. Yet the culture and people he grew to admire have left their mark on him. Adrift, he manages his father's grocery store and becomes reacquainted with a girl he barely knew growing up.
Kate Monroe's parents have died, leaving her the family home and the right connections in her Southern town. But a trove of disturbing letters sends her searching for the truth behind the comfortable life she's been bequeathed.
On the same morning but at different moments, Tacker and Kate encounter a young African-American, Gaines Townson, and their stories converge with his. As Winston-Salem is pulled into the tumultuous 1960s, these three Americans find themselves at the center of the civil rights struggle, coming to terms with the legacies of their pasts as they search for an ennobling future.
Elaine Neil Orr writes fiction, memoir, and literary criticism. With stories set in Nigeria and the American South, she delves into themes of home and displacement. Her novels are journeys of conscience. Swimming Between Worlds, her newest, is described by Charles Frazier as “a perceptive and powerful story told with generosity and grace.” Anna Jean Mayhew writes, “the riveting plot and real-life characters would not let me go.” In a starred review, Library Journal said of Orr’s last novel, A Different Sun, “this extraordinary novel shines with light and depth.”
Her memoir, Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life (Virginia, 2003), was a Top-20 Book Sense selection and a nominee for the Old North State Award. She is associate editor of a collection of essays on international childhoods, Writing Out of Limbo, and the author of two scholarly books.
In 2016, she was Kathryn Stripling Byer Writer-in-Residence at Wesleyan College, Macon, Georgia.
Orr has published extensively in literary magazines including The Missouri Review, Blackbird, Shenandoah, and Image Journal. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.