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Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven.

"McElmurray is a powerful writer, successful at rendering both the bleakness of lives lived without hope and the fleeting promise in single moments of recognition. Her mountains pass the test of durable literature." --Women’s Review of Books

This is a story about real life, about people trying to finish things that cannot be finished, about trying to raise the dead, about trying to return mothers to their children and wives to their husbands. . . . But it is also a story about love, about how salvation can be located . . . in the human experience of love. --Chicago Tribune


Set in Mining Hollow, Kentucky, from just before the Depression to the early 80’s, Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven is told from the perspectives of three characters:  Ruth Blue Wallen, whose dreams of escaping her hardscrabble life are thwarted by familial and societal obstacles, then barely tempered by her embrace of religion; her husband, Earl, a “has-been singer…turned coal miner,” whose own escape comes regularly in the form of an aging waitress; and their thirty-something son, Andrew, struggling to balance his homosexuality against his mother’s religious severity and his father’s traditional notions of manhood.  McElmurray presents these characters in flowing prose, deep with metaphors and stocked with imagery that crosses magical realism and something much starker. --Oxford American

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