Mapson, Jo-Ann 1952-
MAPSON, Jo-Ann 1952-
PERSONAL: Born March 29, 1952, in Pasadena, CA; daughter of Mary Catherine Mapson; married Stewart Alexander Allison, December 21, 2000; children: Jack Allison. Education: California State University, Long Beach, creative writing degree; Vermont College, M.F.A., 1992. Hobbies and other interests: Horses, dogs.
ADDRESSES: Home—AK. Office—University of Alaska Anchorage, 3211 Providence Dr., Anchorage, AK 99508. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa, CA, lecturer in English, 1991-99; University of Alaska, Anchorage, AK, adjunct professor, 2000—. Artist-inresidence, Villa Montalvo Center for the Arts, 1994. Fiction writer, poet, and teacher.
AWARDS, HONORS: Villa Montalvo Arts fellowship, 1994; award from California Short Story Competition, 1998, for "Fault Line"; Bad Girl Creek was named a Booksense 76 pick.
Fault Line (short stories), Pacific Writer's Press (Irvine, CA), 1990.
Hank and Chloe, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
Blue Rodeo, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Shadow Ranch, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
Another Man's Medicine, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Loving Chloe, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
The Wilder Sisters, HarperFlamingo (New York, NY), 1999.
Bad Girl Creek, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
Along Came Mary, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
Goodbye, Earl, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to anthologies, including Graining the Mare: The Poetry of Ranchwomen, Maverick Western Verse, and Horse People. Contributor to periodicals, including Dry Crik Review, High Plains Review and Kenyon Review. Contributor of book reviews, Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times.
ADAPTATIONS: Blue Rodeo was produced as a television movie by CBS, 1996; Bad Girl Creek was produced as an audio book.
SIDELIGHTS: Jo-Ann Mapson is best known for her novels featuring gritty female heroines and the rugged scenery of the American Southwest. She has also written poetry and essays. Though she had the urge to become a writer when she was just a child, it was not until she was about forty years old that she saw the publication of her first book, Fault Line. It is a collection of short stories connected by the theme of "the invisible cracking under the surface of daily life," as Sonja Bolle summarized in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. One of thirteen stories in Fault Line that displays the "extraordinariness about Mapson's writing," Bolle stated, is "The Red Nightie Network." In this tale, three friends, each raising a child with a serious medical infirmity, share strength through a gossamer red nightgown.
Mapson's first novel, Hank & Chloe, was widely praised. It is "gentle, earthy, down-home fiction from the New West," declared a Kirkus Reviews commentator. Chloe is a former prize-winning equestrian who is now a waitress and riding instructor for children of the rich in southern California. She is self-sufficient, skeptical, and tough when she meets Hank, a local college professor, and helps him birth a new colt. Hank is attracted to Chloe because she seems "dewinged like some troublemaking angel who was summarily demoted to earth." Chloe defies Hank's efforts to rescue her from her troubles, but "the two gradually learn to trust each other," observed Sarah Ferguson in the New York Times Book Review. The story of the two lovers is continued in a sequel, Loving Chloe. In this novel, Hank has relocated to an Arizona cabin. He is joined by a pregnant Chloe, who is ready to give family life a try. But her affections are put in jeopardy by the arrival of Junior Whitebear, a local Navajo man who has just returned from a period of great success as a silversmith and jewelry artisan in the eastern part of the county. The love triangle causes changes in the lives of all involved.
Blue Rodeo, Mapson's second novel, is also set in the Southwest—in this case, New Mexico. The book's emotionally scarred players "learn to cope with loss and acquire the wisdom to understand 'the necessity of grief, and its partner, joy'" wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The story's protagonist, Maggie, has failed as a wife, mother, and even as an artist, due to the consequences of divorce and an angry teenage son who has become deaf. Maggie connects with an unlikely Marlboro-man type, Owen Garrett, who, in his youth, killed a man in alcohol-enhanced anger. They heal, painfully but together, enabling Maggie to connect with her son and Owen to face his past. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that in this novel Mapson "has proved herself wise in the ways of the human heart." A Kirkus Reviews critic complained that "the predictability of the love story disappoints," but considered the overall novel "as lyrical and romantic as her first." Anita Shreve, assessing Blue Rodeo for the New York Times Book Review, praised the book and its author, declaring that "the people and the landscape of New Mexico … come alive with her tart and funny prose."
In 1999, Mapson published The Wilder Sisters, a novel about the search for romance and self-discovery. Mapson introduces Rose and Lily Wilder, daughters of a rancher and his beautiful wife. The sisters return to the ranch of their childhood to deal with their own midlife crises in a variety of ways. "There's great stuff here: luscious sex scenes; hilarious encounters with wayward children; family talk and sorrow; and a respectful delineation of several kinds of religious faith as a natural part of living," stated GraceAnne A. DeCandido in Booklist. When compared to Mapson's earlier novels, "this novel is not quite as captivating … but Mapson's trademark excellence still shines," according to Library Journal reviewer, Bettie Alston Shea. A commentator for Publishers Weekly stated that "the protagonists are engaging, rounded and real" and that "if the male characters are as usual blind to emotional insights until it's almost too late, many readers will overlook this failing and hope to see the Wilder sisters' saga continue."
With Bad Girl Creek, published in 2001, Mapson began a series of books about a group of women who work together on a flower farm. Phoebe, Ness, Nance, and Beryl are all women of "wit and grit," according to Booklist reviewer Carol Haggas, and all need their humor and toughness, for they have been wounded by life. The unconditional support they offer each other helps the women to blossom, and Mapson paints them so vividly that they are like "characters you'd want to know in real life," according to Haggas. While finding that Bad Girl Creek is not Mapson's "best nor her deepest work," a Publishers Weekly reviewer still commented favorably on the author's ability to combine "poignancy with the good-natured banter of girlfriends in her tale of women in transition, waiting to be reborn." Along Came Mary picks up a year after the close of Bad Girl Creek, and introduces a new character: Maddy Madigan, a singer who travels the rodeo circuit with her hard-drinking boyfriend. Leaving him and the rodeo behind, Maddy ends up at the flower farm, where readers can catch up on the dramatic developments in the other characters' lives. These include pregnancy, bereavement, and hospitalization. "Yes, it's a lot to swallow, but undeniably fun to read; the story zips along, powered by the marvelously individual narrators' voices," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Haggas, in another Booklist review, stated that "Mapson continues to delight." The trilogy concludes with Goodbye, Earl, which sees the friends hit by "another full slate of tragedies, some old, some new, all compelling," according to Andrea L. Sachs in People. By this time, the four friends have moved to scattered locations, but they are still tightly bound by their friendship. Haggas praised Mapson's achievement in making the characters so distinct from one another and for "[imbuing] them all with a wisdom and philosophy that resonates on both personal and universal levels." A contributor to Publishers Weekly credited the author's "warmhearted narrative and lively dialogue" as the key elements in this "good curl-up-by-the-fireplace-with-a-cup-of-cocoa book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Mapson, Jo-Ann, Hank and Chloe, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
Antioch Review, winter, 1994, pp. 181-182.
Belles Lettres, fall, 1993, p. 57.
Booklist, March 1, 1993, p. 1156; May 15, 1994, p. 1665; May 1, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Wilder Sisters, p. 1580; August, 1999, review of Loving Chloe (audio version), p. 2074; March 15, 2001, Carol Haggas, review of Bad Girl Creek, p. 1354; January, 2003, Carol Haggas, review of Along Came Mary, p. 646; December 1, 2003, Carol Haggas, review of Goodbye, Earl, p. 647.
Boston Globe, April 4, 1993, p. B40.
Chicago Tribune, July 22, 1994, sec. 5, p. 2.
Cosmopolitan, March, 1993, pp. 210-222.
Detroit Free Press, August 5, 2001, review of Bad Girl Creek, p. 4E.
Glamour, March, 1993, p. 180.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1993, p. 16; April 1, 1994, pp. 425-426; April 1, 1999, review of The Wilder Sisters, p. 475; February 15, 2001, review of Bad Girl Creek, p. 207; October 15, 2002, p. 149.
Kliatt, March, 1999, review of Hank and Chloe (audio version), p. 55; July, 1999, review of Loving Chloe (audio version), p. 52.
Library Journal, February 1, 1993, p. 113; September 1, 1993, p. 256; October 1, 1993, p. 50; May 1, 1994, pp. 137-138; May 1, 1999, Bettie Alston Shea, review of The Wilder Sisters, p. 111; June 15, 1999, review of Loving Chloe (audio version), p. 121; October 15, 2000, Sandy Glover review of The Wilder Sisters, p. 124; April 1, 2001, Bettie Alston Shea, review of Bad Girl Creek, p. 133; November 15, 2002, Nancy Pearl, review of Along Came Mary p. 102; August, 2003, Andrea Tarr, review of Bad Girl Creek, p. 160; November 15, 2003, Nancy Pearl, review of Goodbye, Earl, p. 98.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 6, 1990, Sonja Bolle, review of Fault Line, p. 14; March 22, 1993, p. 6; July 4, 1994, p. 4.
New York Times Book Review, May 30, 1993, Sarah Ferguson, review of Hank & Chloe, p. 14; July 3, 1994, Anita Shreve, review of Blue Rodeo, p. 21.
People, February 3, 2003, Debby Waldman, review of Along Came Mary, p. 49; February 9, 2004, Andrea L. Sachs, review of Goodbye, Earl, p. 42.
Publishers Weekly, December 14, 1992, p. 38; April 4, 1994, p. 58; April 12, 1999, review of The Wilder Sisters, p.53; April 30, 2001, review of Bad Girl Creek, p. 54; January 6, 2003, p. 40; October 27, 2003, review of Goodbye, Earl, p. 42.
Rocky Mountain News, January 31, 2003, Delores Derrickson, review of Bad Girl Creek.
School Library Journal, August, 2001, Pam Johnson, review of Bad Girl Creek, p. 209.
Western American Literature, winter, 1994, p. 371.
Book Reporter, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (February 11, 2003), Judy Gigstad, review of Bad Girl Creek.
Jo-Ann Mapson Home Page, http://www.joannmapson.com (September 14, 2004).
Romance Reader, http://www.theromancereader.com/ (May 24, 1999), review of The Wilder Sisters; (June 5, 2001), review of Bad Girl Creek.
Romance Readers Connection, http://www.theromancereadersconnection/ (February 11, 2003), Tracy Farnsworth, review of Along Came Mary; Susan Scribner, review of Bad Girl Creek.
Teen Reads, http://www.teenreads/ (February 11, 2003), Judy Gigstad, review of Bad Girl Creek.*