Originally Published: October 31, 2014 6 a.m.
Novelist, memoirist, writing mentor, teacher and NPR commentator, Mary Sojourner, writes with fierce love and passion about the Mojave Desert she loves in her newest novel, "29," a compelling story that teaches readers even as it keeps them turning pages. The August edition of Publisher's Weekly gives it a starred review, saying, "This standout ecological novel from Arizona author Sojourner ("Going Through Ghosts") features picturesque prose, a vivid western setting, and sharply drawn characters.
Fifty-five-year-old Nell Walker is fired from her lucrative job as an accounts executive at a pharmaceuticals marketing firm during the 2008 economic downturn. With only $600 to her name, she leaves L.A. on a Greyhound bus and broods over her estranged mother, Tara, who is a "petty dope dealer" and her broken office affair.
After arriving in the arid, scorching town of Twentynine Palms, Calif., in the Mojave Desert, Nell finds lodging at La Paloma, a women's shelter, and employment as a bookkeeper at an auto repair shop run by Monkey Barnett, a "shade tree mechanic" and "Okie stoner." Monkey is married to Jackie, an RN at a retirement home and a part-time artist. Nell and Monkey banter in the workplace, where she discovers that he has apocalyptic visions, perhaps related to the impending environmental peril facing Twentynine Palms.
After Nell befriends Mariah, a local Chemehuevi Native American, they visit her sacred tribal path, where she reveals that Freegreen Global, an international solar energy conglomerate, is trying to build a facility on their property. Nell decides to help Mariah in the defense of her people's land and rediscovers her own identity in the process."
As is always the case with Sojourner's work, "29" will leave no reader untouched and unmoved. Readers can hear her read from and talk about the writing of this book at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, at The Peregrine Book Company, free of charge. Those who attend and purchase the book are invited to remain and participate in her hour-long workshop, following the reading, Q&A and signing.
The Peregrine Book Company is located at 219A North Cortez St., in Prescott.