Henry Garrett wallows in a self-inflicted purgatory. He’s left his wife, moved into an abandoned grocery store on Magazine Street in New Orleans and worries for his sanity because of the endless clatter in his head, a condition he believes is linked to his father’s mental health and death. But Hurricane Katrina changes everything in John Gregory Brown’s “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere.” The storm forces Garrett out of New Orleans and he lands in a small Virginia town, not far from where he believes his wife to be. The town’s inhabitants, the colorful owner of the hotel where he stays, a lost manuscript and a tragic accident pulls Garrett back from insanity and gives him a reason to be. It’s a novel of loss, longing and the redemptive power of art.
Brown is a New Orleans native and the author of “Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery,” “The Wrecked,” “Blessed Body of Shelton Lafleur” and “Audubon’s Watch.” He directs the creative writing program at Sweet Briar College in Virginia and serves as the Julia Jackson Nichols Professor of English.
New Orleans-based writer and teacher Lara Naughton has published a memoir titled “The Jaguar Man,” a story of how one woman’s use of compassion helped her survive a rape and later find peace. Naughton leads writing workshops with inmates in New Orleans’s Parish Prison and is chair of the Creative Writing Department at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. She has published poetry and nonfiction and was the recipient of the Alice Judson Hayes Fellowship in 2012 for work that addresses social justice and the Surdna Arts Teacher Fellowship in 2009 for her work as a teacher. As a documentary playwright, she has created work with groups such as AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Program for Torture Victims and Resurrection After Exoneration and has written the play, “Never Fight a Shark in Water.” Naughton will discuss and sign her memoir beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Octavia Books of New Orleans.
The Decatur Book Festival, the nation’s largest independent book festival, will be Friday through Sunday, Sept. 2-4, in Decatur, Ga. For more information, visit
Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at email@example.com.