Marie Bostwick’s latest mends the life of a woman undone
In many books, the story begins with a character at home who is pushed out on an adventure into new and unfamiliar places. For these protagonists, each page takes them further away from where they started — and sometimes their homecoming at the story’s end is its own reward.
Real life, however, does not always follow such a linear track. Sometimes the way forward starts with going back to the beginning.
Such is the case in New York Times bestselling author Marie Bostwick’s latest novel, Esme Cahill Fails Spectacularly (William Morrow, 2023). The book follows the titular heroine from the fragments of divorce, job loss, and thwarted creative ambition in New York City back to her hometown of Asheville, NC. There she finds her family business, a lakeside resort, running to seed.
While helping put the business to right, with the help of her eccentric, lovingly dysfunctional family and a traveling chef named Dawes, Esme discovers her grandmother’s museum-worthy collection of quilts — a secret chapter of family history from a prodigiously talented woman whose art flew under the radar — and the sacrifices and sweet consolations of being part of a family and being true to yourself.
“One of my core beliefs,” says Bostwick, “is that everyone is born with a natural creative talent and inclination, and that we are happiest, most productive, and most in tune with our purpose when we give ourselves permission to express it.”
The arts angle — Esme is a writer; her grandmother Adele was a gifted quilter— also factored into Bostwick’s decision to set the novel in Asheville. “The city’s long tradition as a haven for artists and the natural beauty of the area made me think it might be a good fit for the story I wanted to tell, and it was.
“As soon as I started reworking my concept to mesh with Asheville’s setting, culture, and history, things started to fall in place,” adds the author, who is based in Oregon.
The setting may be new; the thematic thread is not. Esme Cahill is Bostwick’s twentieth book in a catalogue comprising contemporary and historical fiction; her “Cobbled Court Quilt” series (2008-2014) includes such titles as Threading the Needle, Ties That Bind, and Apart at the Seams.
Bostwick, who’s been involved with the fiber-art community for more than three decades, certainly writes what she knows — and loves.
“Quilting,” she notes, “is a terrific metaphor for patching together a meaningful life from the scraps fate hands us.”
This hopeful novel affords readers an opportunity to reckon with present and past in a way that is loving and generous to all involved.
“Especially as we get older, it can be incredibly freeing to reexamine our childhood through an adult lens,” says Bostwick. “Realizing that the adults of our childhood were not perfect, or perfectly wise — that they were probably just as flawed back then as we are now — can help us forgive them, and ourselves.”
Marie Bostwick will appear at “Books and Bites,” a ticketed event hosted by Friends of the Mountains Branch Library at Lake Lure Inn, on Wednesday, May 31, 5:30pm (a “meet and greet” with cocktails happens at 5pm). Call 828-287-6392 for reservations. On Thursday, June 1, at 5:30pm, Bostwick will speak at Henderson County Public Library (301 Washington St., Hendersonville) preceded by a “Meet and Greet” at 5 pm. Free. Registration required: hendersonpl.libcal.com, 828-697-4725.