Lay it on my Heart

Family past and present loom large in tiny East Winder, a strict evangelical community in rural Kentucky. And no family looms larger than that of thirteen-year-old Charmaine Peake. Her grandfather was a famous revival evangelist, but her current circumstances are overshadowed by her prophet father, recently committed to a psychiatric institution. Her grandmother is a one-time debutante in physical decline, and her mother—thrown into a marital crisis she deeply resents—has started turning to Charmaine for impossible answers.

When financial desperation forces them to move into a trailer on the river, Charmaine must adjust to an unfamiliar and seemingly hostile community. Female friendships there take complicated root. Sexuality becomes something to reckon with. Back in town, a sanctimonious missionary kid occupies her real bedroom, where she uncovers his stash of troubling photos. And as Charmaine and her mother battle it out within close quarters, her father’s return becomes less and less likely. Through it all Charmaine tries to pray without ceasing, as her father taught, but with so much upheaval even God seems hard to reach.

Like the beloved Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya SisterhoodLay It on My Heart unleashes Southern humor in the face of a parent’s mental illness. It brings us into the heart of a complex family weathering the toughest patch in their lives, and highlights the moving and hilarious nature of a fragile mother-daughter relationship. But most of all, it illuminates the stark realities of adolescence, the emergence of compassion, the first keen pangs of losing one’s place in the world, and the power that comes from discovering who you are. This revelatory, heartwarming book fulfills Angela Pneuman’s promise as “a stunning new talent to watch” (O, The Oprah Magazine).

 

The Author: Angela Pneuman

Angela Pneuman is the author of a book of short stories, Home Remedies, and a novel, Lay It on My Heart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories (2012 & 2004), Ploughshares, Los Angeles Review, Iowa Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, New England Review, Glimmertrain and many other literary magazines. Angela has received the Stegner Fellowship from Stanford, the Presidential Fellowship from SUNY Albany, and the inaugural Alice Hoffman Prize for short fiction from Ploughshares.

She lives in California where she teaches fiction writing at Stanford University and works as a copywriter in the wine industry.


Reviews

“Biting yet optimistic, this first novel will knock you sideways with its Southern charm and quiet humanity.”

—O, The Oprah Magazine

“[A] marvelous dark and comic debut novel…Pneuman is a master of dark comedy, and the grimmer the material, the funnier it becomes in her twisted but capable hands.”

—San Francisco Chronicle

“Pneuman captures the voice of adolescence and the uncertainty of faith in this endearing novel.”

—Minneapolis Star Tribune