Meet 'the greatest American novelist you’ve never heard of'

'Ducks, Newburyport' by Lucy Ellmann
'Ducks, Newburyport' by Lucy Ellmann
Courtesy of publisher

Every week, The Thread checks in with booksellers around the country about their favorite books of the moment. This week, we spoke to Lori Feathers from Interabang Books in Dallas, Texas.

Lucy Ellmann may be “the greatest American novelist you’ve never heard of,” says bookseller Lori Feathers.

Ellmann has more than five books to her name, but she’s lived overseas for decades, making her a relatively unknown name for American readers.

Her latest novel, “Ducks, Newburyport,” is changing that. The nearly 1,000-page tome has landed on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize.

“I think it’s simply the most brilliant and, at the same time, the most audacious novel of 2019,” Feathers said.

“In the book, there’s an unnamed narrator and she’s a frazzled, middle-aged wife and mother of four, living in rural Ohio. … We really get into her head and into her thoughts. In some ways, the book is just a stream of consciousness of her thoughts,” Feathers said. “But it reads so easily and it’s so immersive that the pages just fly by.

“The narrator’s voice is authentic and real. You get just kind of a dazzling torrent of her thoughts as she worries about everything — from gun violence to President Trump to polluted drinking water, down to the most mundane things like soft-boiling eggs and cleaning behind the refrigerator and perfecting a lemon drizzle cake recipe. But somehow all of this just works in a structure and in a book that’s so enjoyable and very relatable.”

“There’s a certain rhythm and almost addictive quality to the book. I never looked up and thought, ‘Oh my goodness, how much more?’ The time just passes and it’s really, genuinely a very enjoyable read.”

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