Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven

A Novel by Karen Salyer McElmurray

"A work of stunning originality."—Lee Smith


"McElmurray is a powerful writer, successful at rendering both the bleakness of lives lived without hope and the fleeting promise in single moments of recognition. Her mountains pass the test of durable literature."
Women's Review of Books

"This is a story about real life, about people trying to finish things that cannot be finished, about trying to raise the dead, about trying to return mothers to their children and wives to their husbands. . . . But it is also a story about love, about how salvation can be located . . . in the human experience of love."
Chicago Tribune

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This haunting debut novel invites us to explore the boundaries between beliefs, desires, obsessions, and madness. Karen Salyer McElmurray's story is set in Mining Hollow, Kentucky, where we meet Ruth Blue Wallen; her husband, Earl; and their son, Andrew. Ruth longs to know God, the only escape she can find in a world that has shown her spiritual, emotional, and sensual defeat. Earl yearns for the music-making of his past, now lost as he makes a living as a coal miner. Andrew desires the affection of a boyhood friend, an expression of love considered sinful in rural Kentucky. And with the divinely inspired yet tormenting help of his mother, in a world of deeply and tragically conflicting desires, Andrew must choose to live or die—he must choose an uncertain love or nothing at all.
Page count: 300 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 9


List price: $24.95

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Karen Salyer McElmurray is the author of two novels, Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven (Georgia) and Motel of the Stars. She is also the author of the memoir Surrendered Child. She is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia College and State University, where she is Nonfiction Editor for Arts and Letters. She also teaches in the low-residency program at Murray State University.