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Where I Can’t Follow by Ashley Blooms

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This novel was named a most-anticipated book of 2022 by Good Housekeeping and many other magazines. The author, Ashley Blooms, set out to write “a book that dealt with addiction primarily and then a ripple effect of issues surrounding addiction, such as grief, mental illness, choice and autonomy.”  The theme of choice reverberates because the protagonist, Maren Walker, like many people I’ve known in Appalachia and the Eastern Kentucky coalfields where this book is set, is always thinking about getting away from the region. When Maren was nine-years-old, her mother, Nell, departed fictional Blackdamp county and left Maren to be raised by her grandmother. Now, Maren also dreams of somehow escaping her life selling pills. "Where I Can't Follow is a powerful and unflinching look into emotion, place and its people, and what binds you even when not fully belonging. Ashley Blooms has written a haunting testament to the survival of self and family in a struggling, desperate Appalachian community." ― Kim Michele Richardson. "Haunting and hopeful, a hard story full of shocking warmth and unexpected beauty. The little doors of Blackdamp are the kind of make-believe that feels true, a magic so vivid it feels more like a memory than a work of fiction." ― Alix E. Harrow. "With wisdom beyond her years, Blooms illuminates human frailty and elevates the humble journey. Her mountain tale of hardship comes wrapped in delicious language. I highlighted favorite phrases so I could re-read them and be stunned all over again. Her original voice is captivating and unique and delivers an ethereal story about trust triumphing over self-doubt. Congratulations, Ashley Blooms, on propelling our imagination toward a new dimension." ― Leah Weiss. The author grew up on Cutshin Creek deep in the mountains of Leslie County, Kentucky. Her MFA is from the University of Mississippi. Her first novel, Every Bone a Prayer (2020) was praised by Dorothy Allison and many other authors and publications.

Napierville, Illinois: Sourcebooks, 2022. 288 pages with “A Reading Group Guide,” and “A Conversation with the Author.” Trade paperback.