A sweeping and enchanting new novel from the widely beloved, award-winning author Elizabeth McCracken about three generations of an unconventional New England family who own and operate a candlepin bowling alleyFrom the day she is discovered unconscious in a New England cemetery at the turn of the twentieth century—nothing but a bowling ball, a candlepin, and fifteen pounds of gold on her person—Bertha Truitt is an enigma to everyone in Salford, Massachusetts. She has no past to speak of, or at least none she is willing to reveal, and her mysterious origin scandalizes and intrigues the townspeople, as does her choice to marry and start a family with Leviticus Sprague, the doctor who revived her. But Bertha is plucky, tenacious, and entrepreneurial, and the bowling alley she opens quickly becomes Salford’s most defining landmark—with Bertha its most notable resident.
When Bertha dies in a freak accident, her past resurfaces in the form of a heretofore-unheard-of son, who arrives in Salford claiming he is heir apparent to Truitt Alleys. Soon it becomes clear that, even in her death, Bertha’s defining spirit and the implications of her obfuscations live on, infecting and affecting future generations through inheritance battles, murky paternities, and hidden wills.
In a voice laced with insight and her signature sharp humor, Elizabeth McCracken has written an epic family saga set against the backdrop of twentieth-century America. Bowlaway is both a stunning feat of language and a brilliant unraveling of a family’s myths and secrets, its passions and betrayals, and the ties that bind and the rifts that divide.
Elizabeth McCracken is the author of five books, Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry (stories), The Giant’s House (a National Book Award finalist), Niagara Falls All Over Again, the memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, and Thunderstruck & Other Stories (winner of the 2014 Story Prize, long-listed for the National Book Award), three of which were New York Times Notable Books. She has received grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has served on the faculty at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently holds the James Michener Chair for Fiction at the University of Texas at Austin.
Bowlaway: A Novel 4 out of 5based on
7 months ago
A slice of life kind of story. It was fine, not as great as the newspaper reviews said. I raced through it as fast as possible.
7 months ago
Elizabeth McCracken’s “Bowlaway” begins at the turn of the 20th century in small New England town of Salford, Massachusetts. A woman named Bertha Truitt is found unconscious in the town cemetery with a bowling ball, a candlepin and some gold bars on her person.
The entire town is curious as to where Bertha came from, but she either doesn’t know or won’t tell. She marries an African-American doctor, Leviticus Sprague, and opens a candlepin bowling alley in the town. (Apparently, this was a very New England activity.)
She hires two men, Joe and Jeptha, who are considered outcasts in the town. They are fiercely loyal to Bertha, and even when Bertha encourages the town’s women to bowl at the alley, people come to accept this unusual woman and her ways.
Bertha and Leviticus have a baby girl whom they dote on. When Bertha dies in a bizarre accident, Leviticus falls apart and sends the young child away to live with his family. Soon, a man named Nahum shows up claiming to be Bertha’s son from a previous marriage and wants to claim the bowling alley as his inheritance.
This intense story weaves its way through the years. We follow the large cast of characters throughout their lives, all revolving around the bowling alley. McCracken writes the novel with some magical elements within it, and it is a unique story, but she is such an amazing storyteller the reader becomes captivated by it.
Her characters and their journeys are fascinating and heartbreaking. We see how the past influences the present, and how secrets and choices can have such lasting consequences. McCracken’s writing is just stunning and lovely, and this book has received much critical praise.
“Bowlaway” is not for everyone, but if you are looking for a big, sprawling story set in a small bowling alley with characters who are unforgettable, definitely give it a try. McCracken’s previous book, “The Giant’s House,” also featured characters that are outside the societal norms, and is just as wonderful.
From National Book Award finalist and the New York Times bestselling author of The Year
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