Warlick, Ashley 1972–
Warlick, Ashley 1972–
PERSONAL: Born April 14, 1972, in Salt Lake City, UT; daughter of Frank (a farm operator and sales representative) and Katherine Jane (a nurse) Warlick; married, August 6, 1994; children: two. Education: Attended Dickinson College, 1990–94.
CAREER: Novelist, reviewer, columnist, and educator. Queens University of Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, instructor in MFA program. Has worked variously as a waitress, stocker, lifeguard, and nursery employee. Founding member of advisory board of Novello Festival Press, Charlotte, NC.
AWARDS, HONORS: Houghton Mifflin Literary fellowship, 1995; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 2006.
The Distance from the Heart of Things, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1996.
The Summer after June, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2000.
Seek the Living, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Publisher Houghton Mifflin launched Ashley Warlick's career in 1995 by making her the youngest writer to receive its Literary Fellowship. The then 23-year-old author produced The Distance from the Heart of Things, a novel about Mavis Black, a young woman who has just begun working as an accountant for the family vineyard in South Carolina. The action centers around a wedding and the gathering of various eccentrics who are family and friends; in this setting, Mavis tries to come to terms with her relationships with her relatives and with the college boyfriend she has left behind. With this book, Warlick not only succeeded in publishing what had begun as a college project, she also joined the elite ranks of such writers as Robert Penn Warren, Elizabeth Bishop, and Philip Roth as a Houghton Mifflin fellowship recipient. Erica K. Cardozo noted in Entertainment Weekly that her initial skepticism about the book was disarmed by its portrayal of Mavis, whom she called "a refreshing—almost shocking—anomaly in Generation X noveldom." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly credited Warlick with "a gift for fluent, lilting language" and a sure hand at painting the novel's Southern atmosphere.
The Summer after June, Warlick's second novel, is a "haunting tale of one woman's heartbreaking journey into the many realms of love," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. When Lindy Jain's sister June is brutally murdered, Lindy is devastated. Unable to stand living any longer in Charlotte, NC, Lindy gathers up June's infant son and, with no word or warning to family or friends, leaves town and heads for Galveston, TX. There, she takes refuge in her grandmother Esther's abandoned house, hoping to somehow recapture the long-lost, but more pleasurable feelings she had growing up there. Lindy works to leave behind as much of her former life as possible, but she soon discovers that she is pregnant with her fiance's child. Soon after, she reconnects with an old childhood friend, Orrin Cordray, who has become a gardener like his father, who worked for her grandmother. With touches of magic realism, Lindy explores her grandmother's house and the elaborate system of hedges that seem to form another world, while delving deeply into her past to see what it can tell her about the present. Orrin also has untold stories from his past. He is also building an ark on his farm, a seagoing craft that will help protect Lindy and her loved ones from a fast-approaching hurricane. As Lindy tries to fit into her new world, she realizes that she has not been able to cast off her previous life but has instead made the connections with her past stronger, even as she finds she has difficult decisions to make regarding herself and the lives of those around her. "Out of dense, elegiac, occasionally self-conscious prose, Warlick fashions a mythic world," remarked the Publishers Weekly critic. With her second novel, Warlick "helps us understand that love can ameliorate sadness and suffering and demonstrates that the promise displayed" in her first novel was genuine, commented Nancy Pearl in Booklist. Starr E. Smith, writing in the Library Journal, stated that "this lyrical novel … will beguile readers who like romantic plots with a bit of depth and bite."
Seek the Living is "deep and intense, employing an economy of language that is somehow simultaneously stark and lush," commented Debi Lewis in Booklist. In a story of "infinitesimal epiphanies," Warlick's "string of emotional payoffs keeps bursting like tiny firecrackers," observed a contributor to Publishers Weekly. Protagonist June Patee is an archivist who struggles through complicated relationships with the people in her life. Since her mother's death, it seems as though her family life has disintegrated around her. She longs for a baby of her own, but her husband is perpetually away on business, making him almost a phantom to her. June's father and brother consistently play emotional games that pit her unwillingly against one or the other. Her friends are not as supportive as they might be, instead forcing June to confront issues from her past. When her father sells off the family farm, her brother Denny has a breakdown, leaving his stable job in Atlanta to move into a house beside a cemetery, drink to excess, and wander through a succession of failed relationships. Saving the fragments of her own life and reestablishing her identity within her family and circle of friends involves June helping her brother rein in the rapid dissolution of his own. Lewis concluded: "This is a novel to savor."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 1, 1999, Nancy Pearl, review of The Summer after June, p. 510; November 1, 2004, Debi Lewis, review of Seek the Living, p. 466.
Charlotte Observer, March 8, 2005, Sam Hodges, "Seek the Living Author Will Appear at Three Area Libraries," interview with Ashley Warlick.
Entertainment Weekly, April 12, 1996, Erica K. Cardozo, review of The Distance from the Heart of Things, p. 62; May 9, 1997, review of The Distance from the Heart of Things, p. 77; November 22, 2004, review of Seek the Living, p. 37.
Library Journal, November 1, 1999, Starr E. Smith, review of The Summer after June, p. 125; November 1, 2004, Kellie Gillespie, review of Seek the Living, p. 78.
Publishers Weekly, January 15, 1996, review of The Distance from the Heart of Things, p. 440; October 25, 1999, review of The Summer after June, p. 47.
Queens University of Charlotte Web site, http://www.queens.edu/ (October 15, 2006), biography of Ashley Warlick.