Glenna Daniels faces a midlife cul-de-sac. She bears a recent miscarriage and third divorce the way her Appalachian parents taught her to cope with tragedy—in stoic secrecy. She quits her social work position in Knoxville and runs away from home at the age of thirty-six, heading west with childhood friend, Carey, a gay professor in Atlanta. During their years in school, Glenna protected him from bullies. Now Carey is her savvy guide as she tries to heal her fractured life. Through the wilds of America Glenna grapples with the past and reconciles a way back home.
About the Author
Susan O’Dell Underwood grew up in Bristol, Tennessee, the daughter and granddaughter of public-school teachers who also farmed. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and holds a PhD in English from Florida State University. She directs the creative writing program at Carson-Newman University, where her husband, artist David Underwood, also teaches. Besides two chapbooks, she has one full-length collection of poetry, The Book of Awe (Iris Press), and her poems, nonfiction, and stories are published in many journals and anthologies, includ-ing Oxford American, Ecotone, Bellevue Literary Review, Still: The Journal, and A Literary Field Guide to Southern Appalachia.
What readers are saying about Genesis Road by Susan O’Dell Underwood:
A STARRED KIRKUS REVIEW!
A novel explores whether a road trip across America with a gay friend will put a troubled woman’s life back together.
Glenna Daniels’ life is a big mess. Twice married and with a third divorce pending, she has a miscarriage after trying hard to get pregnant. Then her father—and what a piece of work he is—accidentally burns her house down and perishes in the fire. Desperate, she gets in touch with her old friend Carey, a gay history professor. She is in Eastern Tennessee; he is in Atlanta. They met in the third grade and became fast friends and allies. Off they go on a road trip to the West Coast and back. Carey is carrying his own grief: His husband, Stan, died a couple of years ago. What follows is a travelogue (Yosemite, Yellowstone, Canyon de Chelly, the Gateway Arch) with wide-ranging commentary. They visit gay friends of Carey’s in San Francisco. Along the way, Glenna tortures herself with the secret of the miscarriage, which she finally confesses to Carey, allowing her healing to begin. Glenna and Carey start searching for happiness, and the details of their journey are both intriguing and believable. Underwood is a first-rate writer with a collection of poetry, The Book of Awe(2018), to her credit. One mark of a superb novelist is a dogged digging into characters and events, seeing things from all sides. In short, she is thoughtful and not afraid to spend four or five pages on an important scene, which she does time and again. And she gives readers arresting phrases, such as “the brain’s hot little terrarium of regret” and “Carey pushed out of the tent like a hatchling.” In fact, she has a poet’s love for words and the grounding of a moralist without being oppressively moralistic. The audience will find Glenna and Carey immensely appealing and will be convinced that they will remain lifelong pals.
A luminous tale of friendship; readers will be excited to travel with these complex characters.
“Genesis Road is a sprawling travel narrative that centers on Glenna Daniels, a woman from Appalachia, and her childhood best friend Carey, who as a gay man abandoned small town living for an urban cultural center. As Glenna and Carey make their way across America, readers grapple with something new while also being aware that every landscape and every character has a vast and untold history. Throughout this complex journey, Underwood carves out a deeply rendered story of America that reveals the deep scars of its history even as it is also a place where we love and lose each other, searching for a definition of home.”—Mike Hilbig, author of Judgment Day & Other White Lies
“Glenna Daniels of Genesis Road joins a long tradition of Appalachian narrators bound to home and bound to leave. A woman with no plan, Glenna leaves behind the ashes of her life, road-tripping with a lifelong friend with his own losses and facing the landscape of the West ‘like a blank page and writing her name there, a brand new name.’ The humor and warmth of intimates on the road interlaces with Glenna’s account of her past full of regret, hurt, and the rare tender moment of salvation. Underwood’s compassionate novel allows us to journey with her characters into a more deeply understood sense of self and belonging.”—Jessie van Eerden, author of Call It Horses, winner of the 2019 Dzanc Books prize, and The Long Weeping (Orison Books 2017), winner of a Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award.