By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal
Back in 2004, someone gave me a book to read while I was recovering from surgery.
It was a wonderful read and, call me silly, but I believe reading that book might have made my road to recovery much smoother. Certainly more enjoyable.
The book was “Slow Way Home” by Michael Morris. And it was this book that put him on my list of favorite authors, which means I look forward with great excitement to anything new he writes.
A graduate of Auburn University, Morris and his artist wife, Melanie, these days call Birmingham home. And there are Tupelo ties, too – Melanie Morris’ parents, Tom and Dixie Sanderson, have lived here for more than two decades.
The Morrises will be visiting Tupelo this week, when Michael signs copies of his new novel at Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore from noon until 1:30 p.m. Friday.
The inspiration for “Man in the Blue Moon” is a part of Michael Morris’ oral history, a story told by his grandfather about opening a shipping crate one long-ago day on a dock in Apalachicola, Fla., to find inside a long-lost family member.
“This cousin had been falsely accused of murder and escaped frontier justice in 1920 by essentially mailing himself to family,” Morris said in a press release. “You can’t make this stuff up. And fortunately, if you’re from the South, you don’t have to.”
The novel, set in Apalachicola, recounts the story of Ella Wallace who is struggling to raise her three sons alone while also trying to save her land from an unethical, meanspirited banker, who happens to be a former suitor of Ella’s.
As if that’s not enough conflict to season the plot, along comes a mystery man, arriving at Ella’s door in a shipping crate.
There’s intrigue, family drama, betrayal and, as can thankfully be found in many great Southern stories, a good dose of redemption.
As a lover of books and the written word, I heartily recommend “Man in the Blue Moon” – and any other Michael Morris endeavor.
If that’s not enough, perhaps this will do it:
• The Washington Post has compared Michael Morris to Harper Lee and Flannery O’Conner. Wow!
• And at the very top of the cover of “Man in the Blue Moon” is this from another revered Southern writer. “Michael Morris has been one of my favorite Southern writers. His new novel is reason for great celebration – a beautifully wrought portrayal of small-town Southern life. Buy it. Read it.” – Pat Conroy
MICHAEL MORRIS will sign copies of his new novel, “Man in the Blue Moon” from noon until 1:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, at Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore in Tupelo.
TITLE: “Man in the Blue Moon”
AUTHOR: Michael Morris
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House Publishers
COST: $19.99, hardcover