Jayne Anne Phillips, Night Watch, with Jill McCorkle
We are pouring wine and raising a glass to this amazing conversation between Jayne Anne Phillips and Jill McCorkle.
From one of our most accomplished novelists, a mesmerizing story about a mother and daughter seeking refuge in the chaotic aftermath of the Civil War.
In 1874, in the wake of the War, erasure, trauma, and namelessness haunt civilians and veterans, renegades and wanderers, freedmen and runaways. Twelve-year-old ConaLee, the adult in her family for as long as she can remember, finds herself on a buckboard journey with her mother, Eliza, who hasn’t spoken in more than a year. They arrive at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia, delivered to the hospital’s entrance by a war veteran who has forced himself into their world. There, far from family, a beloved neighbor, and the mountain home they knew, they try to reclaim their lives.
The omnipresent vagaries of war and race rise to the surface as we learn their story: their flight to the highest mountain ridges of western Virginia; the disappearance of ConaLee’s father, who left for the War and never returned. Meanwhile, in the asylum, they begin to find a new path. ConaLee pretends to be her mother’s maid; Eliza responds slowly to treatment. They get swept up in the life of the facility—the mysterious man they call the Night Watch; the orphan child called Weed; the fearsome woman who runs the kitchen; the remarkable doctor at the head of the institution.
Epic, enthralling, and meticulously crafted, Night Watch is a brilliant portrait of family endurance against all odds, and a stunning chronicle of surviving war and its aftermath.
JAYNE ANNE PHILLIPS is the author of Black Tickets, Machine Dreams, Shelter, MotherKind, Lark and Termite, and Quiet Dell. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Bunting Fellowship, and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Winner of an Arts and Letters Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; she was inducted into the Academy in 2018. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award and twice a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She lives in New York and Boston.
JILL MCCORKLE has the distinction of having published her first two novels on the same day in 1984. Of these novels, the New York Times Book Review said: "one suspects the author of The Cheer Leader is a born novelist. With July 7th, she is also a full grown one." Since then she has published five other novels—most recently, Hieroglyphics—and four collections of short stories. Five of her books have been named New York Times notable books and four of her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories. McCorkle has received the New England Booksellers Award, the John Dos Passos Prize for Excellence in Literature, the North Carolina Award for Literature and the Thomas Wolfe Prize; she was recently inducted into the NC Literary Hall of Fame. McCorkle has taught at Harvard, Brandeis, and NC State where she remains affiliated with the MFA Program in creative writing and she is core faculty in the Bennington Writing Seminars.
LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN FICTION • From one of our most accomplished novelists, a mesmerizing story about a mother and daughter seeking refuge in the chaotic aftermath of the Civil War—and a brilliant portrait of family endurance against all odds
"A tour de force." —Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage