07 January 2018

*Guest Post & Giveaway!* MISSING ISAAC by Valerie Fraser Luesse


  Genre: Southern Fiction / Christian / Coming of Age
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: January 2, 2018
Number of Pages: 352

Scroll down for the giveaway!

Isaac believed in luck. But from Pete’s point of view, Isaac’s luck had all run out. When Pete McLean loses his father in the summer of 1962, his friend Isaac is one of the few people he can lean on. Though their worlds are as different as black and white, friendship knows no color. So when Isaac suddenly goes missing, Pete is determined to find out what happened—no matter what it costs him. His quest will lead him into parts of town that he knows only through rumors and introduce him to a girl who will change his life. What they discover together will change the small Southern town of Glory, Alabama—forever. With vivid descriptions, palpable atmosphere, and unforgettable characters, debut novelist Valerie Fraser Luesse breathes life into the rural South of the 1960s—a place where ordinary people struggle to find their footing in a social landscape that is shifting beneath their feet.


“Valerie Fraser Luesse’s beautiful story reveals the human heart that always beats beneath the headlines. In the process, she movingly illuminates not only the spirit of a special region but the soul of every human being who ever dared to care. Missing Isaac will break—and then heal—your heart.”  
J. I. Baker, journalist and author of The Empty Glass 

“Welcome debut novelist Valerie Fraser Luesse to the legions of gifted Southern writers before her. Missing Isaac is the first of what we hope will be many more tales from this talented writer.”
Nancy Dorman-Hickson, coauthor of Diplomacy and Diamonds and a former editor for Progressive Farmer and Southern Living magazines

“Valerie Luesse has an ear for dialogue, an eye for detail, and a profound gift for storytelling. She breathes life into these colorful Southern characters and this quirky Alabama town from the first page.” 
Sid Evans, editor-in-chief of Southern Living magazine

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What Texas Taught Me About Alabama
A Lone Star sojourn helped bring my native state into sharper focus.
Guest Post by Valerie Fraser Luesse

My family has lived in the same county in Alabama for four generations. They weren’t exactly thrilled when I announced that I was going to graduate school in Texas. I had never seen Texas. I had never toured Baylor. I just knew that I wanted to make something happen in my life. I wanted a change. So I responded to an ad for graduate assistantships, posted on the bulletin board in the English department at Auburn, and Dr. Thomas Goode called me to talk about coming to Waco.
Not long after that, I loaded everything I owned into a Ford Mercury Monarch (my prized possessions were a stereo and a teeny portable TV) and struck out across I-20 with Mama. Daddy and my grandmother came to get her later, leaving me with Texas and the Ford.

Here’s what I remember most about those first few months:

• Everybody who told me “It’s a dry heat so you won’t feel it” was wrong about Central Texas. I felt every one of those 107 degrees the day I arrived. I would eventually get cocky about the heat, calling home and saying things like, “Well, we’re having a cold snap out here—dipped down into the 90s yesterday.”

• There is no sky like a Texas sky. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of tree branches framed against it because I so wanted everybody back home to see what I was seeing. Of course, no picture that I could take would ever capture the enormity of a Texas sky or its singular shade of blue.

• Texans have a wonderful sense of humor about themselves. It makes them humble, proud, and unapologetic all at the same time. I grew to love that combination.

Over the years, I have met many people who expected me to apologize for Alabama’s past—and seemed convinced that nothing had changed in the decades since the Civil Rights Movement. Texas taught me not to accept that—not to allow anyone else to define me or the place I came from.
My time there also helped me see the uniqueness of Alabama and its people. I guess I thought everywhere was like home because I had never traveled beyond the Deep South and the Florida Panhandle. Spending a few years in Texas, which is a different universe from Alabama, gave me something to compare my home state to. And my new Southwestern friends helped me see how deep my Alabama roots really were.

I remember telling my friend Julie, “You know, I think I would feel like an alien anywhere but in the Deep South.” She laughed and said, “You’d feel like an alien anywhere but Alabama.” (That’s not entirely true. I’m good with Mississippi.)

Missing Isaac, over time, became the story of the complicated truth of Alabama. The violence broadcast on the nightly news during the 1960s was horrific, but it was only part of the story. In little towns like my fictional Glory, Alabama, ordinary people were fighting very private battles: Is everything I’ve believed about race, everything my parents taught me and everything I’ve taught my own children, wrong? And if the old way is wrong, then what’s right?

After I left Baylor, many years would pass before I was ready to delve into fiction writing. During that time, I got schooled in the art of feature writing by some incredible Southern Living storytellers, including Gary Ford and Les Thomas—both Texans—and Dianne Young, who grew up in Alabama but went to grad school at UT and never got over it. She wrote some of the most phenomenal stories of her career about the far reaches of West Texas, which she loves to this day.

Not to go all cowboy on you, but there’s something very straight-shooting about Texas storytellers that I find very appealing. And even the most serious moments will often be tinged with sly humor. I remember Les used to have a rule for young travel writers, who could get so caught up in waxing poetic that they forgot to include a key element: “Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry . . . tell ’em where it is.”

When one of my magazine friends read an early draft of Missing Isaac, she said it made her laugh one minute and cry the next. So maybe I did bring a touch of Texas back home to Alabama. I hope so.

Valerie Fraser Luesse is an award-winning writer and a senior travel editor for Southern Living. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She lives in Alabama.

Grand Prize: Print Copy of Missing Isaac, Print Copy of Southern Living Annual Recipes 2017, Handmade Leather Journal (9"x5"); 2ND PRIZE: Copy of Missing Isaac + $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card; 3RD PRIZE: Copy of Missing Isaac + $10 Starbucks Gift Card January 2-January 11, 2018
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  1. Love what she said about "there's something straight shootin' about Texas storytellers." Ain't it the truth?! Thanks for the post!

  2. I loved the author interview! I've only been to San Antonio in Texas, but it was beautiful and I'd love to visit again.