Sherry Robinson is a native of Lexington, Kentucky and the award-winning author of three novels. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Kentucky and an MA and MFA from Eastern Kentucky University. She spent two summers at the Hindman Settlement School’s Appalachian Writers Workshop under the mentorship of Silas House. Sherry retired as vice provost and professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University, where she spent thirteen years specializing in American literature before moving into administrative positions.
Shadows Hold Their Breath
Shadows Hold Their Breath takes place with the backdrop of the 1970s feminist movement and in the final years of the Vietnam War. It tells the story of Kat Hunter, a woman who decides that the only way she can understand her unresolved grief and discover who she is meant to be is to do the unthinkable … the unforgivable. In October 1979, six years after suffering the loss of Beth, her dear friend and sister-in-law, to enemy mortar fire near the village of Quảng Ngãi, Vietnam, Kat begins to question everything about her traditional life. In the middle of the night, she slips away from her home in Lexington, Kentucky, her husband, and her three young daughters and boards a bus with no specific destination in mind. On the bus, she meets Molly, a young woman who reminds her of Beth. With nowhere else to go, Kat follows Molly and Molly’s boyfriend, Jake, to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Once there, Kat joins the artists community and guards the secret that she is married and has abandoned her children to the care of her husband. Kat’s journey of self-discovery ultimately leads her down an unexpected path; but what is she willing to sacrifice for that journey?
Echo Her Lovely Bones
Much like the sturdy bones of the centuries-old house in which they live, the women who inhabited its rooms are bound together through the letters they leave in the attic. In these letters, which form the novel, the women reveal their dreams, their disappointments, their griefs, and their hopes. Each letter moves us through the female experience that is shaped as much by historical context as it is by each woman’s own life.
The women of Echo Her Lovely Bones include a daughter reluctantly leaving the comfort of her family in northern Virginia to settle in the harsh Kentucky frontier as a new bride; a newly emancipated slave learning what it means to be free; a young law student in the Roaring Twenties testing her family’s (and cultural) expectations for women; a woman wrestling with a dark family secret and debilitating depression; a traditional wife and mother beginning to question those traditional values; her now-grown daughter living out the repercussions of her mother's abandonment; a woman being forced to strike out on her after divorcing her husband of two decades; and her daughter, twenty years later, struggling with family issues in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. These women echo the resilience of generations of women and affirm the importance of women finding their own voice.
Grayson Armstrong’s vision for a dying church has everyone in small-town Mercy, Kentucky talking. The truth is, everyone has been talking about Grayson for the last twelve years—ever since this dark-haired twenty-eight-year-old preacher with shoulder-length hair and an ill-fitting suit drove into town in a silver convertible with his pretty wife and two rambunctious boys. It’s his untimely death, however, that has everyone trying to understand who they thought he was.
This vivid, poignant, and heart-breaking story is told by multiple characters whose paths intersect with Grayson: a homeless Vietnam veteran haunted by demons of war; the local diner’s young waitress grappling with her family’s dark history; aggrieved and supportive congregants and townspeople confronting change and the power of love and hate; and Grayson’s wife and his coming-of-age gay son, struggling to understand their own feelings about Grayson.
During a time when communities and countries are split apart, Robinson’s calming prose and timely story encourages us to put aside our fears, hate, and biases to open our hearts and challenge our perceptions. Blessed is ultimately a story of hope and of the power of forgiveness.