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Oklahoma-born author releases debut novel through HarperCollins Publishers




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 she’s trying to ignore the fact that she’s pregnant with her deadbeat boyfriend’s 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, Mattie’s problems eventually catch up to her.

With this stunning debut novel, DeCarlo has loudly claimed her seat at the table of today’s 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 O’Connor, 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 there’s a good chance they’re living next door.


All of DeCarlo’s carefully drawn characters are considered “Southern freaks,” individuals who possess qualities of the “other” but somehow seem completely commonplace. They belong and don’t 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 Mattie’s mother’s past, a foul-tempered mechanic who isn’t 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 Publisher’s 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.

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Print headline: Resounding Crash, Melissa DeCarlo celebrates the release of her outstanding debut with an event at Full Circle Bookstore.

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