Pruett, Lynn 1960-

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PRUETT, Lynn 1960-

PERSONAL:

Female. Born 1960, in Nashville, TN; daughter of Tom Pruett (an engineer), and Carolyn Geurin (a hospice social worker); married David Miller (an English professor); children: Jack, Truman, Sam. Education: Mount Holyoke College, B.A., 1982; University of Alabama, M.F.A., 1988.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Lexington, KY. Home and office—543 Boonesboro Ave., Lexington, KY 40508. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer. University of Kentucky, Lexington, instructor in writing, 1995—.

WRITINGS:

Ruby River, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor of short stories to anthologies and periodicals.

SIDELIGHTS:

"Even when I was growing up, I was always writing names. The characters and stories were in my head," novelist Lynn Pruett told interviewer Joanna Wilson of the Dover Post. "Often I start with a name, and they grow from that." The author described her first novel, Ruby River, which took her eight years to complete, as "Pride and Prejudice in a truck stop." Set during a hot summer in the small town of Maridoches, Alabama, the recently widowed Hattie Bohannon has her hands full running her newly opened truck stop and raising her four less-than-perfect girls. Unbeknownst to Hattie, while she is dishing out home-cooked food to her patrons, a local prostitute is servicing some of the truckers in her parking lot. Unfortunately this does not escape the attention of the local fundamentalist minister and church ladies in this Bible Belt town. They rally the town to wage war on the truck stop when the minister declares it a hotbed of sin from his pulpit.

Complicating matters further are Hattie's daughters. The eldest, Jessamine, is also the biological mother of Hattie's youngest girl, Heather. Conceived by Jessamine at fourteen, Hattie raised Heather as her own. Now aged twenty-one, the wild Jessamine is having an affair with Richard Reynolds, a married man. When the affair is exposed, Reynolds suggests to the minister, quite unjustly, that Jessamine is a prostitute. This contributes to the townspeople's disapproval of the Bohannon clan, the boycott of Hattie's business, and the hopes of some local businessmen to build a "Christian" steakhouse in its place.

All the Bohannon women appear to have difficulties in their lives. Darla Bohannon joins the army hoping the secret behind her father's death will be revealed. The family only knows that the Veterans Administration has "misplaced" Oakley Bohannon's remains. Connie is also having an extramarital affair, with her uncle's stepson. And although only recently widowed, Hattie too is involved in a romantic liaison, with local sheriff, Paul Dodd; but his affection eventually turns elsewhere, contributing to the splintering of the Bohannon family.

Reviewer Kristine Huntley of Booklist commented that "Snappy, smart writing, and memorable characters distinguish Pruett's debut." More praise for Ruby River arrived from Library Journal contributor Sheila Riley, who noted that "Pruett writes evocatively, even poetically, of the South, fully drawing characters whose varied points of view are presented in chapters bearing their names." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted, "Though Pruett constructs the novel as a contest between church and truck stop, she shows so little sympathy for the Reverend and his congregation that the violent, bitter conclusion seems foregone." On the other hand, Martin Northway of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch praised Ruby River as "gorgeously written," and added that "its changing points of view are enlivened by the author's nonjudgmental empathy with her diverse characters and leavened by her humor, embedded within a serious tale about character and morality."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 1, 2002, Kristine Huntley, review of Ruby River, p. 59.

Library Journal, August, 2002, Sheila Riley, review of Ruby River, p. 145.

Publishers Weekly, July 22, 2002, review of Ruby River, p. 157.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 1, 2002, Martin Northway, review of Ruby River.

ONLINE

Dover Post Online,http://www.doverpost.com/ (May 10, 2003), Joanna Wilson, interview with Pruett.

Grove/Atlantic Web site,http://www.groveatlantic.com/ (May 10, 2003).*