Morris, Michael 1966-
Morris, Michael 1966-
Born 1966, in Perry, FL; married; wife's name Melanie. Education: Auburn University, received degree.
Author, 2002—. Has worked as an aide to a U.S. Senator, as a salesman for GlaxoSmithKline, and as a public affairs manager.
Christy Award for Best First Novel, Catherine Marshall Foundation, and Booksense 76 citation, Independent Booksellers Association, both for A Place Called Wiregrass; Independent Booksellers Association top three recommended books citation, and named one of the best novels of 2003, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and St. Louis Dispatch, all for Slow Way Home; Southern Book Critics Circle Award finalist for novella Live Like You Were Dying.
A Place Called Wiregrass (novel), RiverOak Publishing (Tulsa, OK), 2002.
Slow Way Home (novel), HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2003.
Live Like You Were Dying: A Story about Living, WestBow Press (Nashville, TN), 2004.
Since the publication of his award-winning first novel, A Place Called Wiregrass, Michael Morris has earned numerous accolades from readers all over the country, who praise his ability to realistically evoke his rural background. "Growing up, Morris was told he had writing talent," declared a Publishers Weekly contributor, "but imagined writers lived in Paris or New York—or, if they were Southerners, being eccentric drunks. So he chose a business field." "But while living in Raleigh, N.C.," the Publishers Weekly interviewer continued, "he attended workshops through the North Carolina Writers Network and took an evening class from Tim McLaurin (The Keeper of the Moon: A Memoir), who died in July 2002 of cancer. Studying under McLaurin, Morris began writing what would become his first novel."
That novel was A Place Called Wiregrass, a story based in part on Morris's own life growing up with a single mother who had fled an abusive husband. The protagonist of the novel is Louisiana seamstress Erma Lee Jacobs, who is raising her granddaughter, Chef, for her daughter, Suzette, while Suzette is incarcerated. After Erma Lee is subjected to a savage beating, she decides to leave Louisiana for Wiregrass, Alabama, taking Chef with her. In Wiregrass Erma Lee finds a position as a cafeteria worker in an elementary school—but her pay there does not come close to meeting her needs, let alone those of Chef. As a result, she takes on another responsibility as companion to Claudia Tyler, a senior citizen of faith, and one of the few people who recognize Erma Lee's potential. "Simmering underneath the main story," wrote Publishers Weekly contributor Cindy Crosby, "are subthemes of racism and the church's neglect of the poor and abused." "Cover blurbs," Bob Summer stated in a Publishers Weekly article about the book's marketing success (due in part to Morris's own marketing background), "came from such well-known writers as Anne Rivers Siddons, who said, ‘It is hard to believe A Place Called Wiregrass is a first novel,’ and Lee Smith, who called it ‘a real page turner.’"
Morris's second novel, a Publishers Weekly interviewer stated, "pays tribute to the supportiveness of his grandparents: In Slow Way Home, a custody battle impels an older couple to run away with their grandson." In this volume the protagonist is an eight-year-old boy named Brandon Willard. Brandon is growing up with Sophie, his alcoholic, drug-addicted mother, who changes boyfriends as often as she changes medications. The one common trait the boyfriends all share is their abusiveness. Brandon is finally rescued from this intolerable situation when his mother dumps him on his grandparents' farm in North Carolina and takes off to Canada with her newest beau. "Although Brandon is devastated by his mother's abandonment," Joanne Wilkinson wrote in Booklist, "his grandparents prove to be loving caretakers." All is well—until Sophie returns and demands that he be returned to her custody. Rather than subject Brandon to the dangers of his mother's care, the grandparents take him to Florida, where they begin life over with new identities and a membership in an integrated Christian church. Then disaster strikes: the church is attacked by a local branch of the Ku Klux Klan and is burned to the ground, Brandon is interviewed on television, Sophie learns of his whereabouts, and soon Brandon's grandparents are in jail. Finally, according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "the boy is rescued from her clutches by a North Carolina state senator, who remembers Brandon from a school class visit and decides to take him in." The book, declared Claudia Moore in the School Library Journal, is "a touching, tender story for fans of Nicholas Sparks."
Morris is also the author of Live Like You Were Dying: A Story about Living, a short novel based on the country song by Tim McGraw. It tells the story of how an accident at the manufacturing plant where Nathan works turns his life around, making him aware of his wife and child and how they can make his life worthwhile. "Fans of Tim McGraw," wrote Matt Biorke on About.com, "will undoubtedly want to check this novel out as will fans of the novel writer."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2003, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Slow Way Home, p. 1957.
Christianity Today, December 9, 2002, "A Wry Debut Novel," p. 62; December, 2003, "A Tumultuous Journey," p. 64.
Library Journal, September 1, 2003, "Christy Award Winners," p. 150.
Publishers Weekly, June 10, 2002, "‘Wiregrass’ Springs Up Fast," p. 19; July 7, 2003, review of Slow Way Home, p. 48; September 15, 2003, "In Profile: Authors Take a Novel Look at Faith," p. 9.
School Library Journal, February, 2004, Claudia Moore, review of Slow Way Home, p. 172.
Southern Living, November, 2003, Elise Bratcher, review of Slow Way Home, p. 62.
About.com,http://countrymusic.about.com/ (January 29, 2008), Matt Biorke, review of Live Like You Were Dying: A Story about Living.
Michael Morris Home Page,http://www.michaelmorrisbooks.com (January 29, 2008), author profile.