Have You Met Mignon?
Reading is largely an isolating affair, a reader sinking into a comfy chair and immersing his or herself into the pages of a book. Sometime, long ago, a group of people thought it would be interesting to have everyone in the group read the same book so that they could discuss it. Thus began the book club.
Then, in 1998, now-famous Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl (if you listen to NPR you are familiar with Pearl) suggested a city-wide reading program, "If All Seattle Read The Same Book." Now one book/one city (or state, county, etc) programs can be found across the country. One Book One Nebraska was born in 2005 when organizers set about to have all of Nebraska read a book that is written by a Nebraska author, set in the state or having a Nebraska-based theme. Books selected have run the gamut from classic fiction to contemporary crime thrillers to biography. The first book selected was Willa Cather's "My Antonia" followed in 2006 by Nebraska author Alex Kava's "One False Move" (based, in part, on bank robberies gone wrong in Lincoln in 2001 and Norfolk in 2002).
According to their website, "The Nebraska Center for the Book believes One Book One Nebraska demonstrates how books and reading connect people across time and place." Finalists for the 2013 One Book One Nebraska reading program have been announced, with the winner to be announced November 3rd at the Celebration of Nebraska Books. The finalists are:
- "O Pioneers!" by Willa Cather
- "The Tie That Binds" by Kent Haruf
- "While the Patient Slept" by Mignon Eberhart
- "Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen" by Bob Greene
I'm familiar with Cather (of course), Haruf and Greene but it's the Eberhart book that has me most curious. Mignon Eberhart had one of the longest careers in among major American mystery writers (spanning seven decades), yet I have never heard of her.
Mignon Good was born in Lincoln in 1899 and attending Nebraska Wesleyan University. Although she did not complete the coursework for a degree, in 1933 she was awarded an honorary doctorate degree. Good was married in 1923 to Alanson Eberhart and took took up writing short stories to fight boredom. Her first novel, "The Patient in Room 18," was published in 1929. "While The Patient Slept" was published in 1930, the same year Agatha Christie published her first novel. In the next decade, Eberhart became the leading female crime novelist in the U.S.(although, to be honest, I'm not sure how many female crime novelists there were in the U.S.) and second only to Christie in pay.
Eberhart wrote 59 novels, eight of which were adapted as movies. She was on of the founders of the modern romantic suspense novel and one of the first mystery writers to feature a female heroine (a year ahead of the introduction of Christie's Jane Marple). Like Christie, Eberhart's novels also featured exotic locatons and wealthy novels. In the 1940's Eberhart divorced Alanson Eberhart, married another man, divorced him and then remarried Eberhart. Scandalous, for the time.
I suspect that the Cather novel will not be chosen for the 2013 since one of her novels has already been chosen. Haruf's novels are lovely and "The Tie That Binds" would likely make an excellent choice. My money is on "Once Upon A Town," the story of the North Platte Canteen where thousands of GI's passing through on the train were provided with meals by volunteers.
I don't know that the Eberhart novel stands a chance, given the competition. What I do know is that I'm headed off to the book store shortly to pick up "While The Patient Slept." How in the world is it possible that I have never heard of a Nebraska native who wrote so prolifically?