By Laury A. Egan
“Simply delicious fun from start to finish.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Fourteen-year-old Charlene Beth “Charlie” Whitestone has been deserted by her parents in 1959 western New York. She’s left in the custody of her grandfather, C.B.: a charming con artist, moonshiner and religious fraud who inducts her into his various enterprises while encouraging her dreams of becoming a writer. When C.B. suddenly dies, Charlie is left alone to use her wits and resourcefulness to take charge of her life, all the while wrestling with the morality of continuing her grandfather’s schemes. Then a handsome cowboy turns up, insinuating himself into C.B.’s religion business and into Charlie’s heart. Soon he has Charlie performing staged “miracles,” plunging her deeper into a lucrative but troubling web of deceit.
Though The Outcast Oracle is about a teenage girl, it’s a book for any adult who remembers the traumas of adolescence and the shock of discovering that religion is not all it’s cracked up to be.
“The Outcast Oracle is a page-turning tour de force, full of humor, irony, winks at societal conventions, and serious revelations about the ruses and abuses of organized religion. This lively tale stars Charlene 'Charlie' Beth Whitestone, an all-American teenage girl grappling with the pain of growing up, feeling alone, and finding her path through a thicket of family disasters. Hers will be one of the most enduring voices of contemporary fiction: humanist, feminist, or otherwise. She’ll make you think; she’ll make you laugh out loud.”
–Karla Linn Merrifield, author of Lithic Scatter and Other Poems
Laury A. Egan’s fiction and poetry has appeared in over 35 literary journals and anthologies and has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Web, and Best of the Net. Her collection, Fog and Other Stories, was shortlisted for a Saboteur Award in the UK. A story was a finalist for the Glass Woman Prize and another was a finalist in their Ghost Story contest. She lives on the coast of New Jersey.
In this brilliantly written novel, a girl who lives with her con-artist grandfather after her parents have gone wandering hopes to lead a more honest life but must scheme to get by when he dies suddenly. ... Egan tells the story in Charlie’s first-person countrified style, but with True Grit–style lofty grammar and sentence structure, in keeping with Charlie’s abundant talent. It’s this highly literary, easily accessible writing that lifts this story to the very top of the heap.
– Kirkus Reviews
I found Egan's writing to be wonderfully evocative. Charlie really came alive to me in her first-person narrative, and so did her community and family. It's just a little thing, and maybe not so lovely out of context, but when describing the moonshine business early in the first chapter, she explains why the ledger sometimes takes until the first of the month to tally properly: "Some of his customers run short of cash when they forget to earn a living because they enjoy the moonshine too much." I love how much she says there, about the business, about the customers, about the community. … I loved reading The Outcast Oracle and am very grateful that I was selected to receive it as part of the Early Reviewers program. If this is the quality of fiction that the Humanist Press is putting out, I am definitely going to be seeking more of it. And more of Egan's works, too, for that matter.
Laury A. Egan is the author of Jenny Kidd, a psychological suspense novel set in Venice (Vagabondage Press) and Fog and Other Stories (Humanist Press). In addition to writing fiction, two full-length poetry collections, Snow, Shadow, a Stranger and Beneath the Lion’s Paw, were issued by FootHills Publishing as well as a chapbook, The Sea & Beyond. For purchase information, see the author’s website: www.lauryaegan.com
Visit Laury's blog at www.lauryaeganblog.wordpress.com