Memphis is becoming a literary hotspot and has had its share of renowned authors visit its bookstores, libraries, and reading spaces this year — Jess Walter, Chris Offutt, Jacqueline Woodson, Erik Larsen, Lauren Groff, and Jesmyn Ward, to name a few. Add to this list Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler, coming to story booth on October 13th to discuss his new novel, Perfume River.
Robert Quinlan is a seventy-year-old historian, teaching at Florida State University, where his wife Darla is also tenured. Their marriage, forged in the fervor of anti-Vietnam-war protests, now bears the fractures of time, both personal and historical, with the couple trapped in an existence of morning coffee and solitary jogging and separate offices. For Robert and Darla, the cracks remain under the surface, whereas the divisions in Robert's own family are more apparent: he has almost no relationship with his brother Jimmy, who became estranged from the family as the Vietnam War intensified. William Quinlan, Robert and Jimmy's father and a veteran of World War II, is coming to the end of his life, and aftershocks of war ripple across all their lives once again, when Jimmy refuses to appear at his father's bedside. And an unstable homeless man whom Robert meets at a restaurant and at first takes to be a fellow Vietnam veteran turns out to have a deep impact not just on Robert, but on his entire family.
“What I so like about Perfume River
is its plainly-put elegance. Enough time has passed since Vietnam that its grave human lessons and heartbreaks can be — with a measure of genius — almost simply stated. Butler’s novel is a model for this heartbreaking simplicity and grace.” — Richard Ford
“This is thoughtful, introspective fiction of the highest caliber, but it carries a definite edge, thanks to an insistent backbeat that generates suspense with the subtlest of brushstrokes.” — Booklist
From one of America's most important writers, Perfume River
is an exquisite novel that examines family ties and the legacy of the Vietnam War through the portrait of a single North Florida family.
Robert Olen Butler
438 N. Cleveland Street
Thursday, October 13
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.