Dear Edna Sloane

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Pub Date 30 Apr 2024 | Archive Date Not set

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Dear Edna Sloane is a funny, fast-paced epistolary novel about fame, writers, ambition, and the ups and downs of a creative life.

Edna Sloane was a promising author at the top of her game. Her debut novel was an instant classic and commercial success, vaulting her into the heady echelons of the 1980s New York City lit scene. Then she disappeared and was largely forgotten. Decades later, Seth Edwards is an aspiring writer and editor who feels he’s done all the right things to achieve literary success, but despairs that his dream will be forever out of reach. He becomes obsessed with the idea that if he can rediscover Sloane, it will make his career. His search for her leads to unexpected places and connections, and the epistolary correspondence that ensues makes up this book, a novel infused with insights and meditations about what our cultural obsession with the "next big thing" does to literature, and what it means to be a creative person in the world.

Dear Edna Sloane is a funny, fast-paced epistolary novel about fame, writers, ambition, and the ups and downs of a creative life.

Edna Sloane was a promising author at the top of her game. Her debut...

Advance Praise

“I’ve long been an ardent, near-obsessive fan of Amy Shearn’s sophisticated, hilarious, big-hearted fiction, and with Dear Edna Sloane, she once again knocks it out of the park. This charming, compulsively readable novel—which I read in one sitting, laughing out loud every few minutes—brilliantly satirizes the literary world in a manner that reminded me, somehow, of both Laurie Colwin and Candace Bushnell, Curtis Sittenfeld and, more than any other writer, Taffy Brodesser-Akner. But what fuels this tour de force—aside from Shearn’s pitch-perfect tone and precise, urgent sentences—are her complex, lovable characters and their emotionally resonant thoughts and ideas. I wanted to live inside this book forever.”

—Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year

“Oh to be inside Amy Shearn’s head to figure out how she wrote such a wise, witty, and brilliantly knowing novel about the literary life and how authors connect to readers—and to themselves. Seth, a hungry young writer, sets out to find a once-famous and now-vanished novelist, Edna Sloane, sure his discovery will set him up in the literary stratosphere. And here is where things get outrageously creative, because much of his search is told through correspondence, and the deeper his search for Edna, the more his truest—and sometimes uncomfortable—self emerges. Delightful, insightful, and so, so wonderfully meaningful to anyone who truly cares about the arts. I just loved this.”

—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You, Cruel Beautiful World, and With or Without You

“I’ve long been an ardent, near-obsessive fan of Amy Shearn’s sophisticated, hilarious, big-hearted fiction, and with Dear Edna Sloane, she once again knocks it out of the park. This charming...

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ISBN 9781636281223
PRICE $18.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 29 members

Featured Reviews

What an enjoyable book! The story is told through correspondences, texts and documents. Shearn's characters are complex, and her writing shines on every page. To say much about the plot might give away its mysteries so I would recommend readers go into it blind. Highly recommended for artists and creative souls. Thank to NetGalley for the ARC. #DearEdnaSloane #NetGalley

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At no point during this book did I know what was going to happen next and it was the most fun, yet inspiring book I've read. I loved Margo and Bodhi, I loved how no matter what life threw at her, she was a bright, young woman and could figure it out - with the help of others but also by herself. I LOVE THIS BOOK!

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This book was over-the-top funny, first of all, and so creative. Anyone especially who has ever been involved in literary culture, as a student, in publishing, in teaching, or just an avid reader (especially one who has gone to a lot of author readings) will find something bone-chillingly familiar in the slapstick. The bird tracks were a little distracting but I imagine that they'll be lightened in print and ebook. It does really fun things with time and time stamps, as well as media: we get newspaper articles, emails, text messages, Facebook messages all of which really capture the super recent past as well as the 80s. Reminds me of Where'd Ya Go Bernadette (and some Nicholson Baker I read in college haha). Thank you Red Hen Press and NetGalley for this awesome ARC!

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Seth Edwards, an aspiring writer and editor, becomes obsessed with uncovering the story of Edna Sloane, a once-celebrated author who vanished from the public eye. This obsession leads him on a path filled with unexpected discoveries about Sloane, the literary world, and himself.

It’s a thoughtful and nuanced look at literary ambition, the search for creative authenticity, and the rediscovery of a forgotten literary star. I love an epistolary novel, and choosing modern epistolary formats (email, text, social media posts and comments) was clever. The way in which Seth’s voice changes depending on the forum and the audience is incredibly true to life. He might not even be aware of it, but Edna, that brilliant observer of humanity, points out:

“For your generation I imagine it is fragmented even further – who are you, Seth Edwards? The Facefriend profile? The ImmediaPix feed? Right? Or am I off-base. Robin says I overestimate the fragmentation of the modern self. Maybe I do, maybe ‘twas ever thus, it occurs to me, as I remember my mother’s voice changing whether she was on the phone with customer service, the secretary at the synagogue, my father, with her sister in Texas, her other sister in Tel Aviv – how I judged her for shifting so slitheringly between all these selves – no one is a harsher critic than a daughter.”

Other things I loved: Edna is a great and subtle feminist. Her experiences as a woman in the world of publishing, and delicate rendering of the conflict between mother/wife and artist were so well done. Additionally, a book about a book (pr any great work of art) makes me desperately wish I could experience that work of art myself (think: The Goldfinch, The Fault In Our Stars). That's just a wonderful added piece of texture.

The novel's strength lies in its ability to explore profound themes such as the meaning of success, the pressures of creative life, and the impact of our cultural obsession with 'the next big thing' on literature and creativity. 'Dear Edna Sloane' is a must-read for anyone fascinated by the world of literature, the creative process, and the timeless quest for meaning in art. It's a love letter to literature and a reminder of the power of stories to connect us to what truly matters."

It's a book about why books matter:

"Fiction makes the unsorted mass of life feel meaningful, as if there were some organizing principle to our days."

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I read Amy Shearn’s Dear Edna Sloane in one sitting.

I laughed out loud as I read Seth’s earnest, but misguided emails, texts, posts, and letters as he searches for Edna Sloane, the reclusive author of the 1980s literary sensation An Infinity of Traces who disappeared at the height of her book’s success. Seth, a disillusioned editorial assistant at a digital publication company, becomes convinced that the only way to save his stalled career is to rediscover the forgotten Edna Sloane.

Dear Edna Sloane is told through a series of letters, emails, text messages, and even the occasional Reddit post. Beneath its humor is an emotional core. I saw myself in protagonists Seth and Edna. Like Seth, I remember being a wide-eyed recent English Literature graduate, filled with ideals and ambition, and how quickly the world grinds them down. I also recognized Edna's struggle as a mother and an older woman. As both myself, I've noticed the ways I start to become invisible to the world.

Shearn's portrait of Edna, a fierce and vulnerable woman, feels achingly real. The men in her life—her ex-husband, her editor, her son, and even Seth—demand her energy and validation. They try to diminish Edna's desires and her hard-won sense of self, but she refuses to let them.

As Seth and Edna’s friendship deepens, so does Shearn's meditation on what it is to live a creative life in a world driven by clicks and an obsession with the next big thing.

I loved this book immensely. It's clever, current, and a reminder that sometimes a good belly laugh is just as meaningful as a great epiphany.

This is a SHARE.

Dear Edna Sloane, from Red Hen Press, will be released in April 2024.

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This is a very engaging epistolary's fun to read emails and articles and old letters, after all, and the book juggles a few mysteries all the way through. In addition, this is a very ambitious book. I understand if some readers felt like something was missing, but I think that's part of the point...there is something missing. The letters directly discuss what is missing from real life.
We get glimpses of three generations and three different kinds of pain and emptiness...the unthinkable trauma of a Holocaust survivor, his daughter who is too sensitive and too feisty for ordinary or literary society, and a guy in his 20s who is dealing with his own generation's catastrophes. Our catastrophes. The book also explores how to make art and how to live the good life that might mean growing a beautiful garden for one person, and being alone to write stories for another. How to keep going. How to make it all mean something. Of course, there are no clear answers...we haven't collectively solved these problems! They remain mysteries. But there is much here that's thought-provoking. I know I'll be thinking about these characters and their problems for a long time.
I'd like to say more about my fascination with history repeating itself throughout this story, but I don't want to give anything away.
Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC

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I’m giving this book five stars because I feel that the point of art is to incite an emotional reaction of some kind. However, this book brought out a very visceral reaction out of me, and made me so mad at some points.

From the beginning, I hated Seth and everything about him, and at first I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to or not. But as I got to know Edna, I realized what his purpose was as a character a bit more. I flew through this book, partially because of the format and also because I genuinely needed to know where this story was going. It engaged me throughly.

I’m all about “unlikeable” women in literature, and I adored what this book was saying about that. The juxtaposition of Edna’s rage towards her editor for wanting to punish her character’s sexuality and the men in her life in general with Seth’s reducing of the women in his life to what he can get from them is extremely well written and rage inducing. It was a very good commentary on how women are treated in their creative endeavors, and the obliviousness of men in the same industry to those struggles. I just wanted to protect Edna and her choice to stay out of the spotlight.

I also wrote in my notes that the book made me crave matzoh ball soup. I come from a long line of New York Jews, and I really enjoyed that infusion of culture within the narrative as well.

Overall, a really powerful story with engaging characters, good and bad. I devoured the book in just a few hours.

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If you've ever wished 84 Charing Cross Road and If on a Winter's Night a Traveler could go on a long, meandering walk through the boroughs of New York at dusk and share their secrets — or maybe you're a normal book lover who doesn't imagine books on really good dates but just needs to break a reading slump — you'll inhale Dear Edna Sloane by Amy Shearn. You might even enjoy all the musing on writing as vocation as well as book publishing realities (and more) in one sitting, as I did. The book is epistolatory and follows a pre-pandemic millennial publishing peon as he searches for an author who made a debut splash back when publishing was more three-martini-lunches than it's present day make-your-own-press-tour. Divided into the two parts, I say to go into the story knowing as little as you can so you can enjoy the journey (if not the main narrator at all times; I scoffed at him a couple of times in the beginning, but perfect narrators are boring, and this one didn't fail to make the interesting choice throughout the book, so.).

Dear Edna Sloane pulled off the feat of being not just a book about books but a novel about books that didn't go for any of the easy endings I feared it might while reading it. Did I fist pump when an influence I suspected showed up in text? Reader, I did, and bet you will, too, for we are both of us broken in the same way if you've read this far.

For readers who have read Shearn's earlier work, A Mermaid in Brooklyn, there's a small treat for you as well on page 1. I've yet to read Mermaid as this was my first Shearn, but I was delighted by the find while checking out the author's other work. Personally, my next Shearn will, I hope, be Unseen City, which I missed when it was published in the beginning of the pandemic. Dear Edna Sloane will engage and hang around the brains of anyone who's ever been drawn to a vocation (writing, parenthood, a life well-lived) in a culture that sometimes seems cluttered in clickbait. A thoughtful and fun read!

Thank you Red Hen Press for providing this e-book for review consideration via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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