Full disclosure, Susanne Aspley is not just a friend of mine, she’s a sister. I say that because we served in uniform together and aside from blood relationships, wearing the same uniform while enduring service in butt-crack parts of the world can bring a closeness that is not achievable any other way.
Most recently, the butt-crack part of life we’re sharing is that of finding the right words to put on the page. We commiserate together, encourage each other, and now that she has released her latest work, I get to celebrate it with her and share in her excitement. I’m so glad the rest of the world can now read this book.
The first time Susanne handed me her work to read I was nervous. I knew she could write. I’d read plenty of her work as a journalist. I just didn’t know what she would do when it came time to write a novel. As it turned out, Ladyboy and the Volunteer was easily one of the best books I’d read in a while. Susanne won a bunch of accolades for it, deservedly so, and I couldn’t have been happier for her.
Over the last year or more, like any good author, Susanne struggled with her latest book, Granola, MN. I’d get email and text messages from her screaming that she didn’t know what she was doing, that everything was shit. Weeks later she’d be happy that her main characters, Allison and Toby, had worked things out, only to grow frustrated with them again. All the while I looked forward to reading the story because I knew that if Granola was anywhere near as interesting and funny and quirky and brilliant as Ladyboy was, I’d be looking forward to hours of reading enjoyment.
I’m happy to report that Granola, MN, is Aspley at her best. It’s a story of love and healing told with a kind of humor that sometimes sneaks up on you and at other times smacks you in the face. She shows us a world through the eyes of someone who is unapologetic in her naivete which means she moves through life with an artless candor that is amusing and heartbreaking at the same time.
Just when you thought a topic might be something growing a little bit stayed, a little bit worn down, maybe something you thought you understood, Aspley gives us a completely unexpected viewpoint that makes it fresh and absorbing. I admit to reading this in small bits then going back to it like a treat I horded because I didn’t want it to be over. Lord knows, I needed a laugh at the time. If you feel like that at all, you’re going to want to read this.
Here is the blub:
Allison Couch has her hands full dealing with the assorted flakes, fruits and nuts in the small town of Granola. One summer morning, Toby Davenport moves back home. A young, black, Afghanistan War veteran, he has a heart of gold but a guilt-fueled addiction. Together, they take on parades, pit bull rescues, game show auditions, driving lessons, building inspectors, racism and falling in love. Heartbreaking, slapstick, and rambunctious, life never goes as planned. But there’s always hope, in Granola, Mn.
It’s a fantastic book. One I hope you’re going to enjoy as much as I did. Here is my interview with Susanne. Leave a comment and win one of three AUTOGRAPHED trade paperback copies of the book.
But, before we get to the interview, Susanne and I will both be attending The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) in Washington, D.C. from Feb. 8 to 11. Susanne will be a panelist on Thur. Feb. 9, for Citizen-Soldier-Poet: Using Poetry to Bridge the Civil-Military Gap. She will share the panel with Tessa Poppe, Frances, Richey and Eric Chandler with Randy Brown facilitating.
I will be on a panel on Fri. Feb. 10, for The Middle Americans: How Flyover Country Responds to War. I’m looking forward to speaking with Randy Brown leading the discussion, along with Kayla Williams, Mathew Hefti and Angela Rickets.
I’m looking forward to meeting up with the thousands of authors and readers who attend AWP each year.
Now, here’s the interview with Susanne. And don’t forget to leave a comment to enter to win an autographed copy of the book. Continue reading