Franklin Countys First News

Local author to give book reading, signing on May 16

Patricia O'Donnell

FARMINGTON - A Devaney, Doak and Garrett book reading on Thursday May 16 will welcome Patricia O'Donnell, beginning at 6:30 p.m. O'Donnell will be reading and signing copies of her newest novel, Vigilance of Stars.

If anyone stands in contention to the much-spouted but misinformed idiom “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach,” it is Pat O’Donnell. A professor of Fiction Writing, among other topics, at the University of Maine at Farmington (where she also directs the BFA program in Creative Writing), Pat is also a celebrated author. In her latest work Four stories twine together in this novel set in both contemporary and 1950's Maine. Kiya, a Portland hair stylist in her early 20's, becomes unexpectedly pregnant and determined to keep the baby as she struggles to recover from her brother's suicide. Peter, the baby's father, wants to break away from Kiya and find love--somewhere else. Maddie, Peter's mother, fights her own loneliness as she cares for Alex, incapacitated in a nursing home. Evie, Maddie's mother, appears as a young woman in the 1950's, searching to heal herself both emotionally and physically.

Kiya loses her confidence to be a mother in a shattering experience, which drives her from her home in Portland into the care of Maddie. On the shores of a wide and quiet lake in central Maine, Kiya tries to piece herself together. Peter, still in Portland, struggles to do the right thing without assuming the responsibilities of fatherhood, finding help from his new girlfriend Toni, who--for reasons of her own--pushes him into helping Kiya. In counterpoint to the lives of her descendants, Evie, Peter's grandmother and Maddie's mother, puts herself into the care of Wilhelm Reich at his institute in northern Maine, Orgonon. She is hoping to heal both her melanoma and (though she can hardly admit this to herself) her sexual problems.

The characters' lives spiral together, moving with inexorable force toward an ending which takes place on an uninhabited island in Maine where the stars stand watch over lives both old and new.

Praise for The Vigilance of Stars

Vigilance of Stars book cover.

THE VIGILANCE OF STARS is so compelling and readable, and O’Donnell is such a clear, deft writer, I turned pages, utterly engaged, until the shivery-beautiful ending moved me to tears I didn’t see coming. This novel’s pleasures are of the rarest and truest kind: a group of characters I grew to love, engaged in the most profound and quotidian, complex and simple human experiences—unflinchingly honest, absolutely gorgeous. Oh wow. I loved this book.
--Kate Christensen, author of THE LAST CRUISE

The Vigilance of Stars is a book of abundant life following the footsteps of tragedies and broken hearts and failed healing. Is the world powered by Wilhelm Reich's orgone energy, the collective sexual impulse? Or is it powered by something more sublime? When you take a pregnancy test, does that private moment lead you to the universe or deeply inward--or are those places the same? Pat O'Donnell quizzes the everyday, seeks answers past and present. Her multi-generational characters are rich and alive and I care about them so much I've been waking in the night to consider what they've taught me. There's good in this world, and Pat O'Donnell knows how to make us believe in it, once and for all."
--Bill Roorbach, author of Life Among Giants, The Remedy for Love

About the Author:

Pat O'Donnell is a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Maine at Farmington, where she teaches fiction writing. She also directs the BFA Program in Creative Writing. In 2015/2016 she was awarded the Trustee Professorship, an award created to "recognize exemplary full-time faculty members at University of Maine System campuses." Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Agni Review, The North American Review, Prairie Schooner, The American Literary Review, and other journals and anthologies. Her novel, Necessary Places, was published in 2012 by Cadent Publishing (now part of Tilbury House). Her memoir, Waiting to Begin, was published in August, 2016 by Bottom Dog Press. In addition, her collection of short fiction, Gods for Sale, won the Serena McDonald Kennedy Fiction Award for 2016, and was published by Snake Nation Press.University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Currently, she lives in Wilton, Maine and directs the BFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Maine at Farmington.

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