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Charis in the World of Wonders 2020

Available at indiesBookshopIgnatiusAmazonbn.com, etc.

Contents of this page
Interviews, year's end lists, blurbs, review clips, online praise,
cover copy, illuminator's words, links, video

* * *
Interviews

“'Axe-grinding and message spoil what you make': 
An interview with Marly Youmans"
A deep-diving interview with writer-editor-artist Carl E. Olson,
22 November 2020

"Worlds of Wonder: In Conversation 
with Marly Youmans on Her New Novel"
An interview diving into Charis in the World of Wonders. 
With the stellar questions of Amit Majmudar. 
11 September 2020

"Q and A with Marly Youmans,  
Author of Charis In The World Of Wonders"
11 April 2020

HERE is an interview about Charis--a video 
with novelist Fr. Augustine Wetta as questioner... 
20 January 2021

* * *
Lists at Year's End

15 January 2021
This is probably my favorite book of the year and the one I am most likely to recommend to anyone looking for a good book to read, and especially for a bookclub... The language is lyrical, not difficult, but beautiful and delighting in words for their own sakes. The characters are compelling and the story is a journey that sweeps you along. It does not drag slowly but kept me moving from page to page. But what really blew me away was the deep love of creation and Creator, a probing into the lived theology of encounter with God in nature, in humanity. And a true wrestling with moral questions which is the mark of a mature spirituality. This novel was luminous and I really cannot praise it highly enough. Read it.

"What we read (and loved) this past year"
December 2020
My favorite work of fiction this year was Charis in the World of Wonders, by Marly Youmans. This novel was beautiful. The language was rich and poetic without ever crossing the line into “too much,” and I felt a great sense of intimacy with the main character in both her struggles and joys. --Rosemary Callenberg, Associate Editor

"Twelve Important Fiction Books of 2020" (excerpt, etc.)
December 2020

“The Best Books I Read in 2020"
18 December 2020
A close contender for my favorite book of the year. Like Eifelheim, this novel also treats its historical setting and characters with respect—Youmans’ 17th-century men and women are recognizable to us in their humanity, with faults, foibles, and virtues we can see in ourselves and those around us, but they are also, clearly, the inhabitants of a time very different from our own, from which we can learn much. Youmans’ “World of Wonders” is a grace-filled, sacramentally-charged landscape that reminded me of Flannery O’Connor’s world, different as it is in time and place. --Catherine Harmon

Stephen J. Anderson, "2020: A Few of My Favorite Things"
5 January 2021
I think this book will become a classic. It should, at any rate. It’s an epic set in early colonial North America, full of danger, devils, mythical beasts, wilderness, splendid 17th century vocabulary, and of grace. Charis comes of age in an untamed time in a world of wonders. Everything about it fits. More people need to know about this book.

John Wilson, "A Year of Reading: 2020" 
26 November 2020
Youmans’s latest novel, one of her best, is set in 17th-century Puritan New England. My copy is a thicket of Post-it Notes. John Wilson also talks about the book in The Englewood Review of Books Podcast, Episode 19: 2020 Year-End Wrap-Up (with Sarah Arthur)

* * *
Pre-pub blurbs for Charis in the World of Wonders 

Charis in the World of Wonders confirms once more Marly Youmans' place among the magi. There is indeed ‘a dark and amazing intricacy in the ways of Providence’, as this spellbinding novel attests.”
—John Wilson, Contributing Editor, Englewood Review of Books

“Charis is a prismatic grace journey that awakens our dulled senses and ignites our adventurous hearts. A seventeenth-century girl pilgrim, with dark shadows of Salem foreboding over her, begins a refractive journey as a faithful exile toward a golden sea.”
—Makoto Fujimura, Artist; Author of Culture Care and Silence and Beauty

“Imagine if William Faulkner had decided to rewrite Last of the Mohicans. What you would have is something like Charis in the World of Wonders—a wild adventure tale written with grace and insight.  Youmans' prose is fluid, sharply witty, and deeply rich in symbolism—the work of a master.”
—J. Augustine Wetta, OSB, Author of The Eighth Arrow and Humility Rules

“Youmans’ magnificent storyteller brings the early days of Europeans on the American continent vividly to life, in all their wonder and sorrow.”
—Emily Barton, Author of Brookland and The Book of Esther

“From the pen of an award-winning novelist and poet comes the story of Charis, a girl who loses everything and finds love and acceptance in an age of fear and uncertainty. This book is that rare thing, a novel containing characters who are both historically accurate and completely relatable.”
—Fiorella De Maria, Author of A Most Dangerous Innocence and The Sleeping Witness

*  *  *
Praise for Charis in the World of Wonders 
(review/essay/interview clips--click on links for more)

Marly Youmans’s prose is a joy to read, lyrical and lush, the language as well-researched and suited to the period as the story itself.... Marly Youmans has added a gem to her growing catalog of award-winning works, and although this is the first I’ve read from her, it likely will not be the last. --Karen Ullo, "The Beauty and the Hell-Fire: Charis in the World of Wonders" in Dappled Things, June 2021.

     Frederick Beuchner [sic] wrote, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” This could be the motto for the heroine of Marly Youmans’s new novel, which follows the story of Charis, a young woman whose life is riddled with unimaginable loss and undeniable beauty. Set in Puritan New England, it’s a tale that will interest not just history buffs but anyone who knows the world to be a beautiful, terrible place stitched through with grace.
     ...Charis’ world is one in which I thoroughly believed, full of people I couldn’t help but care about. The archaic language felt natural, and its premodern mindset, full of assumptions alien to the modern experience, was revitalizing to inhabit. --Joy Clarkson, "Editors’ Picks: 'Charis in the World of Wonders'
     
      Charis in the World of Wonders offers diverse sources of enjoyment—an exciting adventure saga, for example. Or, readers interested in the philosophical concepts of time and place, tracing the path of Charis’s adventure offers attractions. For readers interested in history, the book presents a vivid and engaging picture of “a world lit by fire.” Or for those of a metaphysical bent, there is the fascination of the bewildering “forests” of contradictions that drive Every Woman Charis’s interior, psychological journeys. For readers who relish the mot juste, there is delicate and nuanced writing craft and a sparkling use of kennings. My own recommendation is to read the book for all of its many wonders. --Lorraine Hale Robinson, “Homage to Hawthorne: A (New) Wonder Book,” North Carolina Literary Review, pp. 124-127. 11 February 2021.

It's a beautifully evocative book set in Puritan New England as Charis wanders alone through a world of horrors and wonders, mystery and assurance. --review blog post at Our Home on the Range 5 February 2021

This is a beautiful book. Some readers, I have noticed, have difficulty with the poetic nature of Youmans' prose, and to them I say they should become better readers and lovers of language's music. "tilt and spill" "wondrous cascade" "ungrasped length" "bear and vessel what is unearthly and rained down" are wonderful constructions: just listen to the vowels and the rhythms, the moving accents from one sentence to the next. Youmans stretches prose, but never goes too far. Sound and sense, it's all there. I never do any book justice when I write about it, and I keep that tradition with this wee essay. Charis in the World of Wonders deserves lots of readers. Go be one of them, do. --novelist Scott G. F. Bailey, review post at Six Words for a Hat, 22 January 2021 

Marly Youmans' latest novel, Charis in the World of Wonders, is a great book...a rich tapestry of invention, a lovely long song of many overlapping themes. As with so much of Youmans' work, it is a myth writ on human scale, an instruction manual for discovering beauty and love in this fallen world. I do not exaggerate. --novelist Scott G. F. Bailey, Six Words for a Hat31 December 2020

One of my favorite contemporary writers is Marly Youmans. She’s both a novelist and a poet, and she has a new novel out from Ignatius Press called Charis in the World of Wonders. It’s a historical novel set in the Puritan context of the seventeenth-century villages of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Marly is an extraordinarily gifted and imaginative writer. “A Small Good Thing” An Interview with John Wilson: Samuel Loncar in conversation with John Wilson, Marginalia, Los Angeles Review of Books, 20 November 2020

    The book invites comparison with other works, such as The Odyssey (arduous homecoming after war), The Book of Job (wretched loss without lost faith), and Cinderella (good prevailing over evil). It has aspects of all these classics. Charis faces nearly insurmountable issues but perseveres. She is heroic inside and out.
   The novel’s compelling plot, realistic characters, gentle humor, and historicity are strengths, but the first attraction is its glorious prose. Reviewers—there have been a few—can’t resist quoting the book’s opening paragraph. Someday it may be as well-known as the first lines of A Tale of Two Cities or Anna Karenina...
   In its stylistic distinctiveness, this book’s prose is reminiscent of Frederick Buechner’s Godric, a novel about St. Godric of Finchale. What grabs and holds readers throughout that novel is Godric’s singular language; muscular, rhythmic near-poetry, it carries us through the story and illuminates the saint’s personality. Charis’ voice accomplishes the same feat, in its own way... Charis’ language is lyrical but beautifully controlled, organic, never artificial. Every word belongs; no line rings false or sounds clumsy...
   Youmans has a reputation for research and thoroughness. Her portrayal of 1690s America and the people who lived it is utterly confident. Concerning old beliefs and practices that raise twenty-first century, first-world eyebrows, she remains Switzerland. The novel offers a glimpse of life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony—its holy thirst for God, its predictable human cruelty—as if the author had lived then.
--poet Jane Greer, "2020's Best-kept Literary Secret: Marly Youmans’ Charis in the World of Wonders is broad and deep, sweet and savage, funny and terrifying, and just plain grand" in Catholic World Report 13 November 2020

Remember how you used to read as a child, stretched out in the grass or on the couch, lost in the magic of a book.... Be prepared to re-enter that world of magical reading, being so engrossed in the world of the book that you never really leave it, living in a dreamy haze of words and beloved characters. Marly Youmans' new novel, Charis in the World of Wonders (Ignatius, 2020) will put you there, into that trance of reading and joy, as though you had never left it. 
--poet Robbi Nester, The Hollins CriticOctober 2020

Young Charis’s mother wakes her, telling her to flee into the woods as the sounds of an attack on their colonial New England farm fills her ears. This startling opening sets in motion a soaring, harrowing, satisfying story of a teenage girl making her way through unknown forests, personal trauma, and the perils of witchcraft-fueled paranoia in 1690s Massachusetts. There are as many luminous moments in this novel as there are dark and dangerous ones, with Marly Youmans’s gorgeous prose in top form—not least from her deft use of weird period vocabulary. Evocative illustrations by Youmans’s longtime collaborator Clive Hicks-Jenkins add another layer of magic to a book that will make you think as much as it will make you keep turning pages. 
—writer-professor Christopher Phillips, Lafayette.edu

A charming literary work that envelops the reader in the chaotic frontier life of Puritan Massachusetts.
--Historical Novel Society Issue 93, August 2020

Youmans shrewdly presents the collective madness of witch trials as one of many destructive forces in the world — on a level with Indian massacres, concussions, and drowning. As such, the hysteria seems less alien, our modern complacencies less sure, leaving behind the uneasy suspicion that we may be as prone to collective madness as they are, and as blind to it, lulled by the tools we vainly depend upon, just as they depend on their brimstone preaching, to save us from destruction. This sojourn in Charis and the World of Wonders lets us experience reality bare of illusions: life can end at any moment, avoiding grief is folly, joys should be taken gratefully when they come, and creation is full of beauty, fear, mystery, and God.
--novelist H. S. Cross. "In the Liminal Zone," The Living Church (Anglican Communion), 30 July 2020

The voice, the action, and the ethos of the novel are all from the perspective of not just Charis’s faith, but her view of the world, a difficult thing to capture.  It is tricky. since no one at the time would write a first person account with so much dialogue, detail, or action.  The idea is to get close to the mentality of The Pilgrim’s Progress, the symbolic world, but not the form or the language.  Well, to some degree, the language.  Youmans borrows period language, wonderful archaic words, many of which we should return to use.  Nabbity, nattle, naughty-pack, nazzle, niffle-naffle, nightwalking, nittle.  The novel ends with a twelve-page glossary that I found readable and pleasurable on its own.  And I do not remember one time when I needed to turn to the glossary, since the vocabulary was always clear enough in context (e.g., ruttled up above).  The glossary is a bonus.
--"The Enchanted Novels of Sigrid Undset and Marly Youmans" at Wuthering Expectations 15 June 2020

Charis means grace and this book is very much about the movement of grace in a fallen world of sin. I was surprised at how much the novel’s worldview was imbued with faith— you don’t often find that kind of faith— simple, unalloyed with skepticism and untainted with hypocrisy— in contemporary literary novels. What’s more, in addition to the expected faith that had the familiar “Puritan” strains of fascination with sin, the devil, witchcraft, and hellfire; Charis also has a faith that is more familiar to me: one that is infused with a deep awareness of grace and mercy of a loving God. Certainly Charis is aware of those in her community who emphasize sin and the presence of the devil, but her personal vision of God is as a God of wonders, a God of love and mercy. And much of the drama and beauty of the novel is watching her navigate between those different worldviews (the Satan-haunted and the grace-haunted) which are both present not only in Charis herself but also in her community.
--Melanie Bettinelli, an extended review at The Wine-Dark Sea  5 June 2020

What really makes this novel good is the interior life of the protagonist. She's an interesting character, and with a very rich, beautiful interior monologue... There is a sensitivity of  language; the language is beautiful without being overwrought... It's lovely,  it's captivating, it's beautiful.
--Melanie Bettinelli, Raising the Betts podcast #051 (begins 38:25 mark), StarQuest Media Network sqpn.com, 26 May 2020

It has a lovely and captivating heroine and, in Hortus, one of the best animal heroes in literature since Buck in "The Call of The Wild." Join Charis in her journey through the World of Wonders and you will not be disappointed.
--Greg Langley, Young heroine in 'Charis' will captivate readers, The Baton Rouge Advocate, 23 May 2020

     Marly Youmans, who spent must of her girlhood in Cullowhee and much of her academic career in Chapel Hill, is a hard writer to pigeonhole.
     A poet, she’s also written a shelf of novels, in a variety of genres: historical (Her 2001 book “The Wolf Pit,” won the Michael Shaara Award for Civil War fiction), supernatural fantasy (“Glimmerglass”) and Southern Gothic (“A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage”)...
     Youmans has wound up writing a poem in prose, with subtle symbolism and delicious wordplay. Like a later New Englander, Emily Dickinson, she tells the truth but tells it slant.
--Ben Steelman, "In NC writer’s new novel, the woods are dark, deep and dangerous," The Wilmington StarNews, 16 May 2020

Ms. Youmans and [Ron] Hansen share a deep commitment to moral questions not just pondered and wondered, but acted on even at the moment of mortal peril. Charis in the World of Wonders is a novel which demands real choices of the characters, in which wonder is not just a glistening opiate, but a sublime, dangerous glimpse of reality that demands a moral response.
--Cat Hodge, Darwin Catholic blog, 15 May 2020

A writer I greatly admire and have sometimes written about, Marly Youmans, has a new book coming late in March from Ignatius Press: Charis in the World of Wonders, with cover art and illustrations by the incomparable Clive Hicks-Jenkins. This novel, set in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, should occasion a piece that tackles the whole sweep of Youmans’s work. She’s not part of any fashionable faction, and much as I would be delighted and surprised to see it receive generous attention in the New York Times Book Review and other such outlets, I am mainly hoping that First Things, Commonweal, Image, and other kindred publications will not let this opportunity pass.  
—John Wilson, "Desiderata," First Things7 February 2020

But mostly, I’ve been reading this wonderful new novel by Marly Youmans. Holy smokes you guys, the tension in this thing, and the sense of foreignness, and the pacing! I’m not finished with it yet, but I can’t see it being bested for my favorite novel of the year. 
--writer Mischa Willett, "The Fall Steals" in Buttondown (newsletter), 10 October  2020




* * *
Selected praise 
from writers and artists on social media


James Artimus Owen, writer and artist: This book, written by my dear friend Marly and illuminated by one of my great inspirations, my friend Clive, is a great example of What Truly Matters in the world. What keeps me going in a world of seemingly ever increasing darkness? Shining lights. Just like this.

Makoto Fujimura, nihongan painter, cultural catalyst, writer: Ok. Cannot help to tweet. “Charis”, Marly’s next novel coming out, is one of the most beautifully wrought writings of the “burning bushes” all about us that I’ve encountered in recent times.  Absolutely mesmerizing novel. #kintsuginovel #culturecare

John Wilson, editor: Every writer is in a sense sui generis, but some to a greater degree than others--@marlyyoumans, for instance. 

Makoto Fujimura, artist and writer: What a stunning, beautiful story Charis is. I can’t stop thinking of it. Hortus continues to roam in my mind, bringing all of us to freedom.

Mischa Willett @PoemsforPeople 22 September 2020
I don’t recall when I’ve enjoyed a work of fiction as much as this one, new from ⁦
@marlyyoumans. For me it gets this timeless Cormac McCarthy vibe crossed with an audacious Faulknerian mythos and dislocating force of language plus some of Buechner’s blunt holiness. 

Paul J. Pastor, writer: Having had an early look at this, I can't stress enough how wondrous this latest novel is from @marlyyoumans
Crisp, wild, dangerous, and good. The latest reason why Marly is fast becoming my favorite living writer.

Jane Greer, poet and editor: This new novel is unlike anything I’ve ever read—and the best novel I’ve read in ages. It’s set in Puritan New England and uses gorgeous language to tell a gentle but riveting story. I stayed up until 3:30 this morning to finish it.

Pete Candler, writer, photographer, filmmaker: Y’all @marlyyoumans is an absolute star. I mean she’s a fantastic poet and novelist but she’s also a gem of a human. Order her new novel, “Charis in the World of Wonders.” It’s what we all need. [Well, I don't deserve that shiny personal compliment, but I'm glad he likes Charis! --MY]

Charis + pandemic post from poet and novelist Amit Majmudar on twitter: congrats to my fellow novelist-poet, @marlyyoumans, on the launch of her new novel — no one gets to leave quarantine unless and until they’ve ordered it!

Shann Ray, poet and writer: ...a novel by my friend Marly Youmans that is astounding, a deep true read, and a book of abundance, grace, and stunning beauty: Charis in the World of Wonders. For a safe haven in the storm, Charis will see you through!

Sebastien Doubinsky @sebdoubinsky: I absolutely love @marlyyoumans's universe. If you don't know it yet, you should really give it a try. Beautiful, magical and thought-provoking. 9 June 2020

Chris Phillips, writer @MobyProf: A bit of a sequel to my tweet a couple of weeks ago about my latest book-buying: @marlyyoumans’ Charis in the World of Wonders is THAT GOOD. The pacing is masterful, the world is pungent & tangible, & Charis’s inner life is exquisitely done. Thank you, Marly! 8 June 2020

Patricia Heaton, actor @PatriciaHeaton: I’m loving your book "Charis in the World of Wonders!" What a unique voice you've created!  4 June 2020

Mary Bullington, painter and poet: Last night, I started Marly Youmans’ new novel, “Charis in the World of Wonders" and was 63 pages deep when I made myself turn off the light. In midst of an Indian attack on her tiny Puritan settlement in the spring of 1690, a teenager begins to tell her life story, even as she makes a harrowing escape into the forest with her 7-year-old sister. Charis's lens on the events and people of her time is devastating. At once innocent and clear-sighted, she speaks to all that she sees, imagines, and feels. Parts read as though Goya’s Disasters of War --“This I saw”-- were told not by a mature and cynical court painter, but by a devout, well educated young woman who has no choice but to observe and participate. 9 June 2020

Jane Zwart, poet: Replying to @kenyonreview I'm reading @marlyyoumans: Charis in the World of Wonders. Not even a hundred pages in but already entranced.  May 31, 2020

Midori Snyder, novelist: I recommend highly reading Marly Youman's most recent novel, "Charis in the World of Wonders." Stunning novel . It would be very instructional for Christian writers to read and see how faith and narrative combine together in a celebration of both. 18 June 2020

H.S. Cross, novelist:  Just signed off on my review of @marlyyoumans beautiful CHARIS IN THE WORLD OF WONDERS for @Livng_Church. This book should be getting more attention @IgnatiusPress Jul 17, 2020

Leonard D. Greco, Jr., artist: ...the images you produce are as vital as those produced on an easel. You are it seems a painter, a colorist, at heart, the line so beautifully blurred. 23 July 2020

Fredric Koeppel, formerly of The Memphis Commercial-Appeal: Truly, a wondrous wonder and a marvelous marvel of a novel, set in the Mass. Bay Colony in 1690 and '91, and I never felt as if I knew or understood the ancestors of America so gravely and winsomely. If you don't fall in love with young Charis, do you have a heart? 7 August 2020

Erica Eisdorfer, novelist and bookseller: Exactly the read you want. August 2020

Katy Manning, aka Jo Grant, the third Doctor's companion on Dr. Who, 7 August 2020you are an amazing writer & deserve every positive word of appreciation (you also have an amazing illustrater who reflects that so well😉) 👏🏼xxxx💕 





* * *
About Charis in the World of Wonders

“When I swung over that windowsill, everything changed for me. We are meant to go in and out of doors in civilized style, but my mother bade me climb into woodsy wildness and a darkness flushed with crimson light and torches…” 
Clambering into the branches of a tree, a young woman flees flaming arrows and massacre. She will need to struggle for survival: to scour the wilderness for shelter, to strive and seek for a new family and a setting where she can belong. Her unmarked way is costly, heroic, hard.
For Charis, the world outside the window of home is a maze of hazards. And even if she survives the wilds, it is no small, simple matter to discover and nest among her own kind—the godly, those called Puritans by others. She may be tugged by her desires for companionship, may even stumble into a sharp, intense love for a man, and may be made to try the strength of female heroism in ways no longer familiar to women in our century. 
Streams of darkness run through the seventeenth-century villages of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Occult fears have a way of creeping into the mind. And what young woman can be safe from the dangers of wilderness when its shadowy thickets spring up so easily in the soil of human hearts? 

* * *

A note from the illuminator:

Marly Youmans' historic novel 'Charis in the World of Wonders' chronicles the journey of its protagonist on her horseback flight from destruction to sanctuary and from sanctuary to an unexpected madness that had me gnawing my knuckles as I read.

Marly is a peerless writer and at Ignatius she has an editor and team doing everything to ensure that the book's jacket and the illustrations within do justice to her illuminating narrative. Not for the first time with Marly I'm steeped in a world of early American folk art, of embroidered samplers and nature not yet crowded out by man. At its heart, Charis on her courageous Hortus, who must carry her to safety and a new life. The image here is just a tiny corner of the cover artwork. It has been, as it always is in the company of Marly, a revelatory journey.
--Clive Hicks Jenkins, pilfered from his page on facebook

Reading with Sally Thomas and Jane Greer HERE


Excerpt (with the first appearance of Hortus) from Charis in the World of Wonders at Women Writers, Women's Books  3 April 2020







A Reading in the Air: 
Jane Greer, Marly Youmans (at 14:00), and Sally Thomas (at 40:00) 
12 June 2020

4 comments:

  1. As always Clive's art is so beautiful. I always want to embroider his art on a huge quilt....each square one of Clive's lovely creatures.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Since he has been influenced by samplers and folk art in these, a quilt would be curious, returning the images back to the source....

      Meta!

      Delete
  2. The b&w illustrations above are very Fraktur-inspired, it seems. (And I am Pennsylvania Dutch, so hey - I noticed!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, he did look at examples of fraktur! Good eye.

      Delete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.