For Book Clubs and Teachers
If you are requesting my books from libraries, they sometimes ask for reviews and ordering information, so I've compiled this fact sheet for people who may be considering In the Lonely Backwater for library collections, book clubs, or classroom resource. I've included excerpts from reviews and ordering information.
CRITICAL PRAISE for IN THE LONELY BACKWATER
The theme of alienation, the impressive description of setting, and the innovative narrative of In the Lonely Backwater situate this as a compelling work of fiction for any reader who loves a good mystery. But it's the voice of the narrator that steers our intrigue through the dark backwaters of this novel. — Susan O'Dell Underwood in North Carolina Literary Review
In tight, yet poetic prose, wasting not a word or a sentence, Nieman skillfully takes readers into the life of a young woman tumultuously standing on womanhood's edge and creates a Southern mystery sure to intrigue.—Nicole Yurcaba, Portland Review
I don't believe I've seen a teenaged protagonist as troubled and true as Maggie Warshauer since Huck Finn. This 17-year-old sailor-scientist inhabits deep water both literally and figuratively in Valerie Nieman's new novel, In the Lonely Backwater. The author sets her tale at a backwoods North Carolina lake marina which Maggie's alcoholic father manages (barely, with her considerable help). Physically plain and stout rather than svelte and sexy like her cousin Charisse, Maggie is a loner who charts her own course, whether on or off her sailboat Bellatrix, salvaged with her dad from the boat "boneyard." Brilliantly, Nieman guides us through one of the most honest, truthful and profound meditations I've yet read on identity, including candid discussions of sex and gender, to discover the very roots of character.—Ed Davis, Books for Readers #224
Maggie Warshauer, the 17-year-old main character in Valerie Nieman's intriguing new mystery, In the Lonely Backwater, may go down in literary history as one of the most memorable unreliable narrators since Rachel Watson in Paula Hawkins' The Girl on the Train.—G. Robert Frazier in Chapter 16, Tennessee Humanities and Chattanooga Times Free Press
I found In the Lonely Backwater to be a beautifully written story that gripped my imagination. The rich descriptions of nature, seen through Maggie's informed eyes, add an extra layer. So does the shifting balance between truth and fiction.— Winston-Salem Journal and Greensboro News and Record.
Valerie Nieman is a strongly established and widely admired author…Each of her works is distinguished for clarity, forceful drama, originality, and deftness of style. Her pieces are often anthologized and she has been awarded a happy number of literary prizes. Why, then, has she chosen to write as her new novel, In the Lonely Backwater (Regal House Publishing, 2022) a murder mystery, one of the most generic of story types?…The heart of the mystery is at last (Maggie's) own heart. The final knowledge she must attain is self-knowledge and its dread truth may be at last undeniable and untenable. The story of In the Lonely Backwater ends in present time. Whether it concludes is a larger question. This novel is an intricate and intriguing work of art. Its intricacies are not mere twists of plot line; they are necessary and inevitable. They define, redefine, in a serious manner the term, mystery.
—Fred Chappell, novelist, poet, Bollingen Prize winner, former North Carolina Poet Laureate, StorySouth
With gorgeous description and elegant prose, Nieman transforms a North Carolina village and marina into a haunting character in this fine literary novel. Readers who enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing will love this story and its likeable teen protagonist, Maggie Warshauer. Beautifully written and perfectly paced, In the Lonely Backwater is a great choice for book clubs." —Donna Meredith, Southern Literary Review
…Maggie seems reluctant to fully engage with her memories of the night of Charisse's death, both in her own mind and under questioning from Vann. This opens up the question of what—if anything—she might be hiding from herself, and from authorities, and why. Is this reluctance born of guilt, or is something more complicated going on? In time, Nieman answers this question. All the while, she writes perceptively about Maggie's interior life, respecting the mystery of it while gradually revealing insights that show Maggie and her past experiences in a new, and sometimes startling, light… Ultimately, the novel comes to a conclusion that continues to haunt me. It's a pleasure to recommend this riveting, psychologically complex, and beautifully detailed novel.— Beth Castrodale, Small Press Picks
Maggie's observations—informed by her fascination with Linnaeus and his classification of species—are carefully revealed….(her) confidence brims with a mature bravado but often clashes with her negative physical self-descriptions. Themes of sexual awakening are raised; they drip with phrasing that conflates desire, regret, confusion, and fantasy as Maggie wrestles with internalized shame." —Kirkus Reviews
Since the narrator-protagonist is 17 years old, the author and publisher are treating this as a "young adult" novel, although its market range is much wider. Anyone who likes Harlan Coben or Gillian Flynn should feel right at home…Nieman, who's the author of To the Bones and Blood Clay, is adept at handling Southern gothic atmospherics, and the text keeps the reader going right up until the solution on virtually the last page. —Ben Steelman in the Star-News
In the Lonely Backwater
by Valerie Nieman
Paperback: 272 pages
US $18.95 / CAN $22.99
US $9.99 / CAN $9.00
Pub Date: May 10, 2022
Regal House Publishing
806 Oberlin Rd #12094
Raleigh, NC 27605 USA
Distributed by Independent
814 N. Franklin Street
Chicago, IL 60610
P: (800) 888-4741
F: (312) 337-5985
If you're a high school or college teacher, In the Lonely Backwater has many possibilities for classroom discussions around nature and taxonomy, gender nonperformance, fiction writing, and sailing.
For college classes or book clubs looking for something a bit different ...
To the Bones
Ed Davis writes: "Valerie Nieman's new novel almost makes me wish I were still an English professor so I could teach the book. A mash-up of genre and literary, To the Bones (WVU Press, 2019) has something for every taste in this rollicking ride of a read... If she can please twenty-something college students yearning for a new take on their anti-heroes, plus simultaneously satisfy their professor's penchant for literary fiction, that's quite an accomplishment." The book has elements of horror, mystery, Appalachian folk tale in its DNA.
Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse
"...Nieman's narrative is appealingly roguish and poignant. But we can also see it as an American parable in poetry, a combination of Huckleberry Finn and Nathaniel Hawthorne's story "The Birthmark." You ponder race, class, suffering, spirituality, history, and identity as you fall under the Leopard Lady's spell. This book is, as the sideshow banner says, ALIVE." — Jeanne Julian in Main Street Rag, Vol. 24, No. 1, Winter 2019
"Steeped in sideshow tradition, and addressing issues of race, gender, self-concept, and creative expression, your book is beautifully written." — The Coney Island Museum