When an armed, masked man enters a restaurant in broad daylight and orders everyone to the floor, eighth-grader Meredith fears for her life. The man instead spares her and orders Lisa, Meredith’s nemesis and classmate, to stand. What happens to the girl who was not abducted—and to her family—in the aftermath of this violent and disturbing event?
That’s the premise of The Fall of Lisa Bellow (Simon & Schuster, 2017), a new novel by Susan Perabo, professor of creative writing and writer-in-residence, which will be released Tuesday, March 14. It’s a coming-of-age tale that draws dramatic tension “as much from Perabo’s insight into a complex and changing family dynamic as from the horror of an unusual but believable situation,” (Publisher’s Weekly) and presents strong and layered characterizations of Meredith and of her mother, who battles her own demons while trying to help her daughter navigate survivor’s guilt.
Drafted during her second year as director of Dickinson’s study-abroad program in Norwich, England, and polished up during last year's spring sabbatical, Perabo's latest book is her sophomore novel, following 2001's The Broken Places.
Like that earlier work, it represents a change of pace for the award-winning writer, best known for the short-story collections Who I Was Supposed to Be (1999) and Why They Run the Way They Do (2016). Her fiction has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize Stories, and New Stories from the South, and has appeared in numerous magazines, including One Story, Glimmer Train, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review and The Sun, and her personal essays include “When Mothers Bully Back,” published March 10 as part of The New York Times’ “Modern Love” series.
Perabo will discuss her work with regional alumni groups in Pittsburgh (March 22) and Philadelphia (April 27) and will attend a book launch party in her honor at Whistlestop Bookshop, just blocks from campus (March 21). These events are highlights of her March book tour, she says, because they give her a chance to connect with alumni, including former students who stay in touch on Facebook.
“It’s wonderful to get to spend some time with them, meet their families, learn more about their jobs and their interests, engage with them as adults, and I also like meeting alums whom I don't know at all,” she says. “It sounds cheesy, but they're part of the extended family, and so I'm always happy to get to know them.”
Published March 10, 2017