World War I is raging in Europe. Ella’s gambling, opium-addicted husband Harlan has disappeared once again from their rural home near Apalachicola. The youngest of her three sons is gravely ill and the mortgage payment is due on her father’s land. Ella is on the verge of emotional and financial collapse.
A mysterious stranger arrives under bizarre circumstances claiming to be Harlan’s cousin, Lanier. He “lays hands” on Ella’s son and cures him. Word of the cure spreads through the town and Lanier is branded either a savior or a devil.
Despite condemnation by the town folks, Ella and Lanier form a tenuous trust and work together to keep the land from foreclosure. Enter Brother Mabry, a bigger-than-life travelling evangelist, and his ailing wife, who want Ella’s land for their grand plans and conspire with the town’s deceitful mortgage banker.
Suspicion, hypocrisy, and murder pervade the town, but Ella holds steadfast in her fight to keep her land despite setback after setback. When Lanier’s past catches up to him, the town is rocked by the consequences. As the story builds to its conclusion, the reader is held captive by this marvelously written novel replete with Southern individualism, eccentric characters, and the will to succeed in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
Bookworm is always delighted to host an author, and especially one who exudes as much Southern charm as Michael Morris. Employing a one-on-one interview style, time literally took flight as we chatted on a wide range of subjects. The group was enchanted by Morris’ tales about his grandfather Curtis “Papa” Whitfield, who he calls a storyteller’s storyteller. The group was also impressed by the book’s accuracy of the 1918 time period and the descriptions of the Apalachicola locales. Morris graciously described how he did his extensive research to achieve that authenticity.
When asked about writing in the female voice, Morris explained he had rather naively done so in his first novel but the result was quite successful. He drew upon that experience and his wife for inspiration. When asked about his favorite authors, the names of Lee Smith, Pat Conroy, and Eudora Welty were given without a moment’s hesitation.
Morris gave us some insight into his next novel and his writing style and habits. His advice for aspiring writers, “Just get it down on paper. Don’t revise, just write. Put it up on a shelf for a few weeks, then take a fresh look and start revising.”
The group wholeheartedly recommends Man in the Blue Moon and all of Michael Morris’ novels.
About the Author
Michael Morris is a fifth-generation Floridian. Raised in Perry, Morris learned the art of storytelling at the feet of his grandparents. Morris is a graduate of Auburn University and holds a Master of Fine Arts from Spalding University. His first novel, A Place Called Wiregrass, won the Christy Award for Best First Novel. His second novel, Slow Way Home, was named one of the best novels of the year, and Live Like You Were Dying was a finalist for the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. The book was inspired by Tim McGraw’s country music song and brings to life the song’s inspirational story. Critics compare his novels to the works of Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee. Morris now lives in Alabama with his artist wife, Melanie.