Landis, Catherine 1956(?)-
LANDIS, Catherine 1956(?)-
(Catherine Landis Henschen)
PERSONAL: Born c. 1956, in Birmingham, AL; married; children: two. Education: Davidson College, B.A., 1978.
ADDRESSES: Home—Knoxville, TN. Agent—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press, 175 5th Ave., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Worked as a newspaper reporter in New Bern, NC, for four years; worked for a public television station in Lexington, KY, became an assistant producer. Writing class and workshop instructor. Freelance writer.
MEMBER: Knoxville Writers' Guild.
AWARDS, HONORS: Leslie Garrett Award.
Some Days There's Pie (novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Harvest (novel), Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Also contributor to periodicals.
SIDELIGHTS: Novelist Catherine Landis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up on Signal Mountain, Tennessee, near Chattanooga. She also lived in Lexington, Kentucky, and Augusta, Georgia, before settling in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1987. Like Landis, the heroine of her debut novel, Some Days There's Pie, is from Tennessee. Ruth Ritchie is looking for a way out of the small town of Summerville and her job at the hardware store, and so she elopes with stereo salesman Chuck Allen Pirkle, whom she first met at a funeral. Life is good until he becomes obsessed with religion, and the young bride leaves in a used car, carrying only with few possessions with her.
Nineteen-year-old Ruth lands in Lawson, North Carolina, where she meets Rose, an eighty-year-old Texan dying of lung cancer who takes her under her wing. Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributor Hal Jacobs wrote that "this is a story that's been told before—a young person learns about living from someone dying—but it's told here with a refreshing new voice." Both characters are practical women, and Rose, who was a former reporter who has been downgraded to writing ads, gets Ruth a job at the local newspaper. Ruth is able to repay the favor by rescuing Rose from her daughter, Carol, who wants Rose to quit smoking and take her medications, even though there is no hope. Ruth's self-confidence grows, and Rose finds strength from their relationship. "Landis does a fine job rendering these memorable characters, two iconoclasts on a quest to live big until they die," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor. Other characters include graffiti poet Cecil, Rose's gay landlord, an historian who lives in the building, and Ruth's other daughter, Alma, who is also in a loveless marriage to a fundamentalist Christian. Brendan Dowling wrote in Booklist that the story "reads like a tougher version" of a novel by Southern writer Fannie Flagg, a "wry and clear-eyed tribute to the power of friendship."
A reviewer for Appalachian Heritage Online wrote that Harvest, Landis's next novel, "tackles the complex subjects of Appalachian identity, land conservation, the disappearance of family farming, and the corporate greed associated with urban sprawl." Set in 1933, it is the story of a family being displaced from their farm in New Hope, Tennessee, as the Tennessee Valley Authority prepares to build a dam. As the story opens, six-year-old Arliss Greene helps his family load the wagon that will take them to their new home. In the next three dozen pages an equal number of years pass, during which Arliss's Uncle Luke, depressed because of their eviction, commits suicide. As the story progresses, his sister, Rosemary, dies in a brush fire; his father, James, is trampled to death by a cow; and his Aunt Belle dies of cancer. Arliss and his wife, Merle, eventually have two sons, neither of whom are interested in farming. The older one becomes a real estate developer in Atlanta, and the younger one, Daniel, becomes a failed academic.
Daniel and his wife, Leda, eventually return to the farm, where she becomes more involved with its operation and develops an understanding of father-in-law Arliss and his connection to the land. But he shares little with her, and north Knox County is changing. Developers are moving in, building subdivisions and the stores and fast-food restaurants to serve their occupants. The Appalachian Heritage online reviewer called this "the saddest part of the novel." The critic went on to say that "on those occasions when Leda does ask Arliss about the memories of his mountain heritage, she is met only with stubborn silence. Arliss Greene buries his emotional losses with the same finality that the man-made lake at Norris buried over 40,000 acres. In Harvest, Catherine Landis delivers a complicated, compelling, character-driven novel and a meditative mourning on one rural East Tennessee family farm that becomes 'an island in an asphalt sea.'"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 26, 2002, Hal Jacobs, review of Some Days There's Pie, p. F5.
Booklist, April 1, 2002, Brendan Dowling, review of Some Days There's Pie, p. 1307.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2004, review of Harvest, p. 768.
Library Journal, March 15, 2002, Rebecca Kelm, review of Some Days There's Pie, p. 108.
Publishers Weekly, April 8, 2002, review of Some Days There's Pie, p. 205.
Southern Living, July, 2002, Nancy Dorman-Hickson, review of Some Days There's Pie, p. 53.
Appalachian Heritage Online, http://community.berea.edu/appalachian heritage/ (June 9, 2005), review of Harvest.
BookPage.com, http://www.bookpage.com/ (June 9, 2005), Pam Kingsbury, review of Some Days There's Pie.
Knoxville Writers' Guild Web site, http://www.knoxvillewritersguild.org/ (June 9, 2005), profile of Catherine Landis.
Newsday, http://www.newsday.com/ (June 2, 2002), Mameve Medwed, review of Some Days There's Pie.
SouthernScribe.com, http://www.southernscribe.com/ (June 9, 2005), Pam Kingsbury, interview with Catherine Landis.