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Wanting Radiance by Karen Salyer McElmurray

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This novel starts when Miracelle Loving is 15 in 1973. She and her mom are living in Swannanoa, North Carolina, but soon to leave. It takes up again twenty years later in Knoxville, and Loving is taking up her murdered mother’s craft of working as a card reader. When her mother’s ghost appears, Loving is again on a quest, this time for the answers to the questions her mother never answered about her father and her origins. She works as a waitress and finds companions, but seldom for long, and finds Radiance, a town in the coalfields where her grandfather lived. The novel ends in Knoxville in 1994 as open-ended as it has been all along. “What drew me in was the language—of song, of tarot and spirituality, of longing and of seeking. Karen McElmurray’s prose sings with poetic force, her characters resonate with energy, and the descriptors of setting draws the reader into the world of Miracelle and her mother Ruby. Days after I finished the book, the story stayed with me, like the lyrics to a deeply felt song.” – Shauna Hambrick Jones. “This book is brimming with haints, lives full of magic, and Karen McElmurray‘s storytelling is the most haunting of all” – Crystal Wilkinson. The author, Karen Salyer McElmurry teaches at Gettysburg College and at West Virginia Wesleyan’s Low Residency MFA Program. Her non-fiction book, Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey, was published before any of her novels.

Lexington: South Limestone/University Press of Kentucky, 2020. 256 pages. Hardback in dust jacket.