Please join Second Tuesday Book Club on October 10 to discuss Zorrie by Laird Hunt. This historical novel spans the twentieth century, and reveals with sympathy and understanding the life of Zorrie Underwood and the people of small-town Indiana with whom she shares it.
We will meet in person from 7 to 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, October 10, in the program room at Schimelpfenig Library. Please email Cathe Spencer at email@example.com, or call Schimelpfenig Library at 972-769-4200, if you have questions or comments. See you soon!
Zorrie by Laird Hunt
“It was Indiana, it was the dirt she had bloomed up out of, it was who she was, what she felt, how she thought, what she knew.”
As her story begins, Zorrie is orphaned and adrift in “the sublimely beautiful but perilous” landscape of rural Indiana, but as time passes, she makes her way into the farm community of Hillisburg, and establishes a life for herself.
A finalist for the 2021 National Book Award, Zorrie was described by NBA judges as “fully contained, perfectly calibrated with love and disappointment, grief and transcendence. It reminds us that there is beauty and fulfillment in the quiet of the plains, on an Indiana farm, in a singular, small life.”
From Pulitzer Prize winner Hernan Diaz comes this comment: “This is not a just book you are holding in your hands; it is a life. Laird Hunt gives us here the portrait of a woman painted with the finest brush imaginable, while also rendering great historical shifts with bold single strokes. A poignant, unforgettable novel, Zorrie is Hunt at his best.”
In her introduction to Laird Hunt’s earlier novel Indiana, Indiana, which also features Zorrie as a character, Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi notes, “In Hunt’s able hands, American landscapes are made legible in all their insularity and elusiveness. Place acts as an anchor. He has an uncanny capacity for capturing rural America on the page and for conveying to his readers a subtle understanding of how integral to our history and our national ideals the supposedly minor lives of its inhabitants are. He writes with an earnest, steady hand and with gravity and nuance.”
Sarah Johnson, writing in Booklist, says, “Hunt celebrates the majesty and depth in a life that may superficially seem undistinguished. Zorrie Underwood is a farmer in central Indiana, and as she and readers survey her 70-or-so years, her joys and sorrows are deeply observed and felt. With compassion and realism, Hunt recounts Zorrie’s story straightforwardly, with setting-appropriate dialogue and an eye for sensory details. A beautifully written ode to the rural Midwest.”
Laird Hunt was born in Singapore in 1968, and spent much of his early life in Europe and Asia. As a teen he returned to Clinton County, Indiana, to live with his grandmother. He has degrees from Indiana University and Naropa University. He has studied at the Sorbonne and has done French translation for a number of years. He is currently Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University, and lives in Providence with his wife and daughter.
He has written eight novels, among them Indiana, Indiana (2003), which also includes Zorrie Underwood as a character. His earlier work, Neverhome (2014), won the first Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine, a French literary award, in 2015.
Laird Hunt’s website is at lairdhunt.org. It includes a number of interviews and videos in which he discusses the influences of the Midwest on his life and work.