by Lee Smith
It’s 1936 when orphaned thirteen-year-old Evalina Toussaint is admitted to Highland Hospital, a mental institution in Asheville, North Carolina, known for its innovative treatments for nervous disorders and addictions. Taken under the wing of the hospital’s most notable patient, Zelda Fitzgerald, Evalina witnesses cascading events that lead up to the tragic fire of 1948 that killed nine women in a locked ward, Zelda among them. Author Lee Smith has created, through a seamless blending of fiction and fact, a mesmerizing novel about a world apart–in which art and madness are luminously intertwined.
Helen says: 🤓🤓🤓🤓
We picked an oldie (2013), but it was a great follow up to last month’s Nick. The book follows the story of a young orphan that grows up at Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, NC. Fabulous story telling- you really got to know the characters! I had not read any of Lee Smith’s novels (NC Native- St. Catherine’s and Hollins College graduate to boot), but now I can’t wait to read more. Terrific historical fiction- I couldn’t put it down.
Holly says: 🤓🤓🤓🤓3/4
Hallelujah! My faith in all things Gatsby is restored! After reading Nick I found my love of Fitzgerald and the Gatsbys waning, but no longer. Zelda is a character in the book, and quite an entertaining one, but the protagonist, Evalina, is simply fascinating, as is this wonderful story by Lee Smith. I was so entertained by this story about mental health at its core, but also about wonderful characters, the beautiful NC mountains, an historical fire, and real events and characters intertwined with a little make believe – historical fiction at its finest. Lee Smith writes this one from the heart as her son and father both spent time at the Highland Hospital in Asheville. This book? Simply amazing. Do not close the book without reading A Note from the Author. Enjoy!