Spokane-based author Erin Pringle, known for her previous work in shorter-form literature, including “The Whole World at Once” and “The Floating Order,” will celebrate the release of her first full-length novel today.
Exploring the darker nuances of tradition, love and suicide, “Hezada! I Miss You” follows a Midwestern traveling circus and the rural village toward which it’s headed as the circus and the town lose their last legs.
Pringle wrote the novel for different versions of herself that she sees mirrored in other people: a woman learning to cope with a sister’s suicide, a young girl struggling alone with her queer identity, a confused child frightened by the future.
“If I’d read this book a long time ago, it would have helped me see myself and other children like me when it felt like no one else saw,” Pringle said. “If I’d read this book before my sister’s death, even if it were years before, I would have had something more to hold onto than I did.”
Growing up in Casey, Illinois, a rural town of 3,000, Pringle experienced firsthand the trials of a community struggling to maintain itself. The remaining local stores shuttered around her, farmers were bought out right and left, barns and old homes left to rot.
“Very much the opposite of the romantic Christmas cards of snowy autonomy you see,” Pringle said. “Once one end of a teeter-totter hits the ground and gets mired in the mud and ice, it’s difficult to dislodge it – even harder the more years that pass with it like that; it’s similar to reviving a town, a community, your own family or your own life.”
At the end of the first chapter, an unfortunate dissonance, all too familiar to Pringle, manifests between the village’s economic need to encourage tourism and the inhabitants’ remaining distrust of outsiders.
Corporations and faceless names own all the nearby farmland, they have just had to tear down the deteriorating local school, so, fearing the inevitable, village council members propose that their only hope is to reinvent the town, attract tourists and market their way back into viability.
In other words, the village must “start performing the look of stability since there actually is none,” Pringle said. But as the act of performance weighs on the villagers, people start to question how different they are after all from the dying circus that visits every summer.
“The way they articulate that fear, that chasm, is through deciding that their plan wouldn’t work anyway,” Pringle said. “Because if other people did come, then those people would bring ideas and changes that would make the village equally unrecognizable. Without a plan that revives the nostalgic past, and without a future that guarantees no changes, they return to stasis.”
At the release party, Spokane Falls Community College professor Barbara Williamson will speak about the novel and women’s and LGBTQ+ literature. Local blues musician Neil Elwell will play a few songs, and Pringle will read passages from the novel and stay after to sign copies.
“You’re invited. Everyone’s invited. I mean it,” Pringle said. “You don’t have to buy a thing. I just want to read to you, listen to the blues with you, my friends, my neighbors, my family.”
Pringle’s subsequent book tour will return to Spokane for Eastern Washington University’s Get Lit Festival in April.
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