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Author Lee Smith to speak at literary benefit luncheon April 30

BOONE—New York Times bestselling author Lee Smith, whose current novel “Guests on Earth” is set in the Western Carolina Mountains, will join fans in the High Country for a literary luncheon April 30 at 11:30 a.m. at the Meadowbrook Inn and Conference Center.

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The luncheon is sponsored by Belk Library and Information Commons’ University Library Advisory Board and the Richard T. Barker Friends of the Library Board at Appalachian State University. Tickets are $35, a portion of which is tax deductible. Proceeds will support library activities.

The deadline to purchase tickets is April 25. For more information, call Lynn Patterson at 828-262-2087.

“Guests on Earth” was published in October 2013, by Algonquin Press in Chapel Hill. According to The Washington Post, the book is a “carefully researched, utterly charming novel.”

The historical novel follows the lives of real and imagined mental patients at Highland Hospital in Asheville, including Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of “Great Gatsby” author F. Scott Fitzgerald. She was one of nine women who perished in a fire at the hospital in 1948 while on a locked ward.

The title of the book comes from a letter that Fitzgerald penned to his daughter, Scottie, about her mother. He wrote, “The insane are mere guests on earth, eternal strangers knocking on closed doors, forever carrying around broken decalogues which they cannot read.”

To Smith, these are “rules of life” which the mentally ill cannot live by. The story in many ways belongs to Smith, whose own father and son were patients at Highland in the 1950s and 1980s respectively. Through her personal experience, engaging characters and an historical backdrop, Smith explores the relationship between sanity and insanity.

Smith has published 12 novels and four collections of short stories. She is a recipient of the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the North Carolina Award for Literature and a Southern Book Critics Circle Award.