The Art of Crash Landing, the first novel by Melissa DeCarlo, tells the story of Mattie Wallace, a smart-mouthed young woman who seems to be followed around by a dark cloud of ill will.
Her alcoholic mother is dead, her ex-stepfather is ailing and shes trying to ignore the fact that shes pregnant with her deadbeat boyfriends child. When a call from an attorney beckons her to a small Oklahoma town, she sees it as a perfect excuse to run away from her problems in Florida and travel halfway across the country in an old Chevy Malibu full of charm and a sense of impending doom. Unfortunately, Matties problems eventually catch up to her.
With this stunning debut novel, DeCarlo has loudly claimed her seat at the table of todays elite contemporary Southern women writers including Joshilyn Jackson, Fannie Flagg and Sue Monk Kidd. They continue the work of literary giants like Carson McCullers, Eudora Welty and Flannery OConnor, crafting haunting stories about the peculiar, the impolite, the freakish, the skeletons tucked away in closets places and people that are so much stranger than fiction that theres a good chance theyre living next door.
All of DeCarlos carefully drawn characters are considered Southern freaks, individuals who possess qualities of the other but somehow seem completely commonplace. They belong and dont belong; they make their homes somewhere between normal and the grotesque dereliction of the gothic South. Mattie leaves one set of freaks behind in Florida only to acquire a handful of new ones in Gandy, Oklahoma: a helpful paralegal in a wheelchair who likes Mattie enough to make her uncomfortable, an angsty teenager who reminds Mattie a little too much of herself, a loud church helper in an abusive marriage who holds a key to Matties mothers past, a foul-tempered mechanic who isnt at all what he seems. All of them help her uncover the secrets of her past and point the way into her future.
The Art of Crash Landing, published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, hit bookstores Sept. 8 and has been lauded by Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. LibraryReads, a monthly list of books recommended by librarians across the country, chose Crash Landing as its No. 1 pick for September. DeCarlo was born and raised in Oklahoma City and now lives in East Texas with her husband and pets.
The author will sign copies of her book 3 p.m. Sept. 26 at Full Circle Bookstore, 1900 Northwest Expressway.
Print headline: Resounding Crash, Melissa DeCarlo celebrates the release of her outstanding debut with an event at Full Circle Bookstore.