About the Author

Jane Hamilton lives, works, and writes in an orchard farmhouse in Wisconsin. Her short stories have appeared in Harper's Magazine, and her first book, The Book of Ruth, was awarded the 1989 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award for Best First Novel. Seven years after its publication, The Book of Ruth was chosen for the Oprah Book Club, giving it a second life. In 1994 Hamilton published A Map of the World which became an international bestseller, and in 1998, The Short History of a Prince, which won the Heartland Prize for Fiction, and was shortlisted for Britain's Orange Prize.


When I was a teenager I read books not to figure out how people fell in love, but to figure out how, once they were in love, they came together. I read Jane Eyre and Emma and Sons and Lovers. The coming together part, I could see, was as complicated as I'd feared. I read heaps of contemporary trashy novels with good girls and bad girls, bad boys and good boys--books which seemed to be more helpful, although the predictable happiness in the end always seemed a little suspect. Other topics that interested me were privation and suffering (The Diary of Anne Frank) and the big emptiness of life itself (The Herman Hesse phase coupled with all of J.D. Salinger). I also wanted a of book instructions about living in the world especially if you felt you were alone. (The Diaries of Anne Morrow Lindbergh were lovely company.)

Now, in middle-age, I still read for some of the same reasons, but for others too. Beyond instructions for living, I read to marvel at a strong or lyrical or surprising sentence. A great sentence is rarer than we think. Lorrie Moore is always stunning in her ability to yoke two or three unlikely things in one graceful and often hilarious sentence. Carol Shields and Kevin Canty and Carol Anshaw and Michael Cunningham to name just a few, also have the ability to surprise and amuse and induce awe. How do they do it? I love reading along and having to pause, to reread, to read out loud, to marvel at the writer's craft. To ask that question again and again--how on earth did they do it? In middle-age I read for a writer's wisdom, his invention, his grace, his penetrating gaze, his fluid sentences, his sense of humor. In old age, as the book lives on, I suspect it will be the same.

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