The author of the memoir The Art of Waiting (2016) and the story collection Mattaponi Queen (2010) takes readers inside a writers’ retreat for Christians with her first novel.
It began as a joke. Marianne, a poet, suggested to her novelist boyfriend, Eric, that a writing workshop for Evangelicals could be a lucrative endeavor. When Eric—now her ex—calls Marianne and asks her if she wants to manage the newly formed Genesis Inspirational Writing Ranch, she can’t believe he’s serious, but he is, and she’s not really in a position to say no. She’s perennially underemployed, and her cheap apartment is about to go condo. So, she leaves New York for an abandoned motel on the outskirts of Sarasota, Florida. Marianne assures herself that this gig will give her plenty of time to concentrate on her own work, but running a school requires a lot of effort, and the students are more demanding than she had expected. Donald—also known as Davonte—is an R&B star trying to write a novel based on what he hopes will be his comeback. He needs Marianne to heat up his Lean Cuisines; he’s trying to lose weight. Janine, a devout home economics teacher who assumes that Marianne is a believer, too, wants to talk about God’s plan for her poems about Terri Schiavo. Just as she’s realizing these aspiring writers are real people rather than gullible rubes ripe for fleecing, Marianne learns that the Ranch is partnering with God’s World God’s Word, a for-profit educational conglomerate with ties to extreme right-wing politics. And then there’s a massive storm heading for the coast….Boggs bombards her heroine with difficulties—artistic, ethical, romantic, meteorological—at an antic pace, and the book has slapstick charm. But the heart of this novel is its cast. Marianne is a mess, and she’s not always a sympathetic character, but she’s real, and she’s capable of change. Rekindling her relationship with Eric is her primary preoccupation early on, but it’s her unexpected connection with Janine that proves more enduring, more honest, and more interesting.
A smart, slightly kooky exploration of art and money, faith and politics.