What will Kentucky Book Festival visitors find on your table?
Publishers Weekly says: “Buchanan debuts with the folksy story of a curmudgeonly woman in 1950s Paducah, Ky….Along with the brisk pacing and knotty protagonist, Buchanan adds plenty of homespun details (nasty weather visits Paducah ‘like a disagreeable aunt’). This slice of life is one to savor.” And Kirkus Reviews says: “(Minerva’s) no-holds-barred observations and criticisms and character studies give the novel a fine sense of humor… An often-humorous tale of a curmudgeon who writes the undead back into the world of the living.”
Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace is the story of Mrs. Minerva Place, a prickly widow who just wants to be left alone. Her passion is researching people who are buried at a nearby cemetery and then writing what she imagines are their stories. These characters become so real to her that she wonders if she’s going crazy, because ghosts aren’t real. Are they? And, while she would prefer to be left alone, there’s that pesky thing called life—her work as a church organist and a piano teacher, not to mention a little boy and his dad who are new to the neighborhood—keep her tethered to reality. But just when Minerva starts to let her guard down, a tragic accident shatters her emerging reconnection with life. With the help of the living and dead, Minerva is forced to face issues she thought she had buried. She discovers the power of forgiveness and why it’s worth it to let others into your life, even when it hurts.
Whom do you invite to stop by? Who will benefit from reading your book?
If you love eccentric characters like Ove in “A Man Called Ove,” Olive in “Olive Kitteridge,” and Eleanor in “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine,” you’ll love Mrs. Minerva Place, a curmudgeon who turns out to be a vulnerable, loveable, unexpected friend. Also, if you love stories set in small towns, where it seems everyone knows everyone else’s business, you’ll love the setting in a very real Paducah in the early 1950s. This historical novel offers a double scoop of history. Not only is it set in the early ‘50s, the characters Minerva writes about are from history, too. Each character she discovers was actually a Paducah resident and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, offering a fun glimpse of more of the town’s history.
Could you please tell us something curious about you and/or your book?
This book started off as a way to share all the research I had done for programs performed in the Oak Grove Cemetery. Our Parks Department had sponsored cemetery tours in which the people buried there “came to life” to tell their stories. Dressed in period costumes, actors portrayed a variety of people from Paducah’s history. As the author of many of these dramatizations, I had accumulated research for about thirty people and knew their stories needed another venue. I started by trying to emulate Edgar Lee Master’s “Spoon River Anthology,” but I quickly ran into problems. I decided to create a character who could introduce each of these historical figures, and Mrs. Minerva Place was born. Now my problem was different—Minerva completely took over. Instead of the book being about a variety of interesting former Paducah residents, it became Minerva’s story.
Is this your first time participating in Kentucky Book Festival? If yes – what are you looking forward to the most? If you’ve participated before – what was your favorite experience at the Festival?
I attended the Book Festival years ago after publishing a gift book called “Flutterbies: Overheard and Understood Bits of Wisdom and Wit Found Along the Way.” It was a compilation of some quirky poems that I had written and then illustrated with whimsical watercolor figures. I sat next to an author from Paducah who was there to promote her fiction. I remember thinking, “Wow, how did she ever get a book published?” Now, all these years later, I’m thrilled to be back with my debut fiction. I love talking to readers and other authors about anything “books,” and I can’t wait to meet more people who will challenge me to continue writing.
Tracey Buchanan crashed into the literary world when she was six and won her first writing award. Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace is a story about the power of forgiveness and why it’s worth it to let others into your life, even when it hurts.