I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
~Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how they spend the day.
November 1, 2022: Ginger Eager
Meet Ginger Eager. Her first novel, The Nature of Remains won the 2018 AWP Award for the Novel and was published in November of 2020. It also won a Georgia Author of the Year Award in the First Novel category. Rightly so. I loved it.
The story takes place in fictional Flyshoals, Georgia, mainly during two time periods—2009 and 1959. Part One is entitled Orogeny (I had to look it up–it’s the process of mountain formation) and is introduced by three short paragraphs that give us setting and mood. Here’s an excerpt.
[T]he Piedmont’s soils are not without magic. In both moonlight and sunlight, they glitter with the remains of deep earth’s ruined crystals: her micas and pyrites, her pulverized quartzes. The hard red clay of north Georgia sparkles in the faintest light and, like the people it supports, hopes that this small display will be enough, hopes that no one will go digging, searching for more.
Chapter 1 starts with the words Doreen Swilley.
Doreen Swilley walked into her kitchen and found her grown son, Jonathan, passed out at her table. From across the room she smelled him–stale beer, last night’s whiskey. He’d left the door to the carport open. She slammed it hard enough to rattle the collectible plates hanging on the wall. He swore, snorted upright. His red curls were slicked across his forehead with sweat. “You owe me for the electric,” Doreen said. “Air conditioner hasn’t cycled off in hours.” She went to the coffee pot and measured grounds into a paper filter.
Jonathan stretched his legs into the kitchen. “That pot’s got a timer on it, Momma. You can set it before bed. Wake up to fresh hot.”
“I know my own coffee pot.” She’d asked for the damn thing last year for her birthday, and Jonathan and his family had given it to her. This year she’d asked for nothing, and nothing was what she got.
Grown son, slammed, rattle, collectible plates–such solid writing and telling details in this short passage. Jonathan’s a mess, but he still cares about his mother. Mainly, though, we see Doreen. And we’ll learn a few pages later that she’s almost sixty.
The Nature of Remains is Doreen’s story. In the next chapter we’ll see her at work at Marxton Casualty and Life and then at play in the woods with her boss. In the middle of a pond, her boss tells her that her job is in trouble and then asks her to marry him. Twice.
I’ll tip the canoe over and swim to shore if you ask me a third time. If I wanted to marry you, I would have insisted upon it decades ago. How have you not understood that?
She’s a force of nature herself. In Chapter 3, she goes busting into her son’s house expecting to take charge of a mess, and we get to see her look around at an orderly room and understand that her daughter-in-law Lexie is not falling apart.
Doreen stood, embarrassed by her tight shorts, her t-shirt. She wished she’d changed into her slacks and blouse before coming here. She was the only person dressed as if things were falling apart.
Lexie too has a story, and I loved watching how she works out what she wants from life and then works to get it.
“So what is it you’re asking me?” Ms. Paulsen said.
Lexie sat at a desk. “How to do it. How to leave.”
Ms. Paulsen’s voice was soft. “Why do you think I know how to do that?”
“Because you’re here by yourself. Somewhere along the way, you had to leave someone behind. Didn’t you?”
And lines like this:
“It struck her that failure might be what God really wanted for his people. All of those small, ceaseless, cracking-opens of the heart.
The Nature of Remains is about family and strong women and marriage and rocks, and the theme of what remains is everywhere. In addition to the awards above, it was chosen by the Georgia Center for the Book as a 2021 Books All Georgians Should Read. Ginger’s essays, short stories, and reviews have been published in journals including Bellevue Literary Review, Necessary Fiction, and West Branch. She teaches in a variety of settings, including nonprofit writing centers and homeschool co-ops. Back in June, Ginger joined me in Atlanta at A Cappella Books for the first event on my 50 Bookstores Book Tour. She lives in Decatur, Georgia with her husband.
Come back on NOVEMBER 1st to read how GINGER EAGER spends her days.