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Publisher's Summary

When she is thirteen years old, Evalina Toussaint, the orphaned child of an exotic dancer in New Orleans, is admitted as a mental patient to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. The year is 1936, and the hospital, under the direction of celebrity psychiatrist Robert S. Carroll, is famous for its up-to-the-minute shock therapies and for Dr. Carroll's revolutionary theory of the benefits of non-introspection.
Evalina finds herself in the midst of a kaleidoscope of characters, including the estranged wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Her role as accompanist for all theatricals and programs at the hospital gives her privileged insight into the events that transpire over the twelve years leading up to a tragic 1948 fire - its mystery unsolved to this day - that killed nine women in a locked ward on the top floor, including Zelda.
In Evalina Toussaint, Lee Smith has a created a narrator whose story is one of unstoppable and defiant introspection. At the risk of Dr. Carroll's ire and at all costs, Evalina listens, observes, delves, pursues, accompanies, remembers - and tells us everything. This is her wildly prescient story about a time and a place where creativity and passion, theory and medicine, fact and fiction are luminously intertwined.
©2013 Lee Smith. Recorded by arrangement with Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing Company, Inc. (P)2013 HighBridge Company
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By William on 04-07-15

Typical Lee Smith Excellence

I enjoyed this book very much, in no small part because my great grandmother was at Highland during the period of the novel. Lee Smith gives us her usual rich characters with interesting back-stories. The reader is quite good, but some of her mispronunciations makes one wonder if the editor was out for bagels.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By T. Peppel on 05-14-15

Lee Smith does it again.

A Lee Smith novel is always a safe bet in the sense that she does not disappoint. I never know what type of tale she will tell, but they are always intriguing and tend to stay with you long after the narrator's voice has faded. Guests on Earth shows us us the up close and personal side of mental illness from the perspective of a young woman who deals with it from within and around her. Mostly set in the beautiful and somewhat isolated Asheville, NC in the first half of the 20th century, we watch the unfolding events in her life and the people around her, and how they help and heal each other as best they are able. A great listen that I would recommend to anyone.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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