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Blake, Michelle (Michelle Simons Blake)

Blake, Michelle (Michelle Simons Blake)

PERSONAL:

Married Dennis McFarland (a writer); children: Katharine, Sam. Ethnicity: "White." Education: Attended Goddard College; Harvard Divinity School, M.T.S., 1993.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Cambridge, MA. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Poet and author. Also taught at Tufts University, Stanford University, Warren Wilson College, and Goddard College.

WRITINGS:

The Tentmaker (mystery novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 1999.

Earth Has No Sorrow (mystery novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.

The Book of Light (mystery novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 2003.

Work represented in anthologies, including Anthology of Magazine Verse. Contributor of poetry to periodicals, including Ploughshares, Southern Review, and Seneca Review.

SIDELIGHTS:

Michelle Blake's first mystery, The Tentmaker, was called "a sensitive, deliberate debut," by a Kirkus Reviews contributor. The protagonist, Lily Connor, is an Episcopal priest, a path Simons had considered while studying at Harvard Divinity School. The liberal Lily is a "tentmaker," or interim priest, serving while the wealthy Boston St. Mary of the Garden parish seeks a replacement for Father Frederick Barnes, who has died from an insulin overdose. Lily comes to St. Mary's grieving over the death of her father and dealing with her own alcoholism. Her problems are compounded when she is not embraced by either the parish or the church wardens.

Lily soon learns that Father Barnes had recently shifted from his conservative position to one supporting the ordination of homosexual spiritual leaders. There is a suspicion that the priest may have had a homosexual relationship with a young teen from the parish, now missing, and it is possible that Barnes may have been helped to his death. Lily digs for the truth with her friend Charlie, an Anglican brother, and her mentor, Bishop Lamont Spencer. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote in a somewhat mixed review that "Blake's writing is graceful, often elegiac, and her characters hum with humanity." Library Journal contributor Rex E. Klett called The Tentmaker "deftly written and firmly anchored in both subject and surroundings." "Sure to appeal to crime-fiction fans with an interest in religion," was the assessment of Jenny McLarin in Booklist.

Earth Has No Sorrow features main character Lily Connor officiating at a Holocaust memorial service marred by a Nazi flag draped over the altar and other acts of vandalism. Anna Banieka, the main speaker at the service and Lily's friend, disappears after confiding to Lily that she thinks she knows who committed the vandalism. Lily's investigation uncovers Anna's link to a conservative religious group responsible for violent acts. Harriet Klausner, a BookBrowser reviewer, called the novel "a powerful work that does not preach, but questions some of the basic tenets of organized religion through Lily's crisis of faith." In Library Journal, Rex Klett praised the book as "taut and thought-provoking." Connie Fletcher, writing in Booklist, felt the book was "strong on issues of faith and social justice." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote that Blake "exposes the very souls of her unforgettable characters with honesty, poignancy and wit. Rich settings and eloquent prose further enhance this most satisfying story."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 1, 1999, Jenny McLarin, review of The Tentmaker, p. 70; May 15, 2001, Connie Fletcher, review of Earth Has No Sorrow, p. 1735.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1999, review of The Tentmaker, pp. 1260-1261; May 1, 2001, review of Earth Has No Sorrow.

Library Journal, September 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of The Tentmaker, p. 236; June 1, 2001, Rex Klett, review of Earth Has No Sorrow, p. 224.

New York Times Book Review, June 8, 2003, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Book of Light, p. 23.

Publishers Weekly, August 23, 1999, review of The Tentmaker, p. 51.

ONLINE

BookBrowser,http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (April 24, 2001), Harriet Klausner, review of Earth Has No Sorrow.

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