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Sharon Summer Book Signing


It takes a while to settle into the slower rhythms of summer—when lolling in a hammock, a good book in hand and a glass of lemonade by your side can be the most compelling thing in your day. Perhaps that is the reason so many book events are planned for August.

Each year, the Hotchkiss Library in Sharon meets this need by opening the month with its much-anticipated book signing, an event that draws a bevy of literary luminaries to present their new offerings and sign them. This year the Sharon Summer Book Signing is set for Friday, August 2nd, from 6-8PM on the historic Sharon Town Green and will be attended by the likes of Henry Kissinger, George Packer and current New York Times bestsellers Martha Hall Kelly and Tyler Kepner.

Kelly, who has a home in Litchfield, will be signing her latest New York Times bestseller, Lost Roses, a prequel to her smash hit, Lilac Girl In Lost Roses she again draws on the history of Eliza and Caroline Ferriday, historical personages who once occupied the Bellamy Ferriday House in Bethlehem CT.

Henry Ferriday, a wealthy New York businessman, bought the Bellamy House in 1912, moving his family there for the summer months each year. His early death in 1914 left his wife, Eliza, in control of the house and their daughter’s future.

Today, the lovely residence and its gardens are open to the public and it was through a visit to the site to see Caroline Ferriday’s lovely lilacs that Martha Hall Kelly was introduced to the dramatic history of Caroline’s life.

In a podcast, she revealed that it was sorrow over her mother’s death that led her to the Bellamy-Ferriday House. “I was very sad after my mother passed away,” she revealed. Her husband suggested that she go to the historic site and, prompted by her mother’s and her own love of lilacs, she visited Caroline’s gardens.

While there, she discovered the story of how Caroline brought a group of Ravensbruck concentration camp victims to the United States for medical treatment following the barbaric experiments they suffered at the hands of Nazi doctors. Caroline’s life inspired Kelly to return again and again to the archives at the Bellamy-Ferriday House until, eventually, the idea of writing a book took hold.

Kelly said the idea was born out of a new acquaintance with a woman who turned out to be a book editor and a cup of caffeinated coffee. “I had no intention of writing a book of any kind,” she said. “I started writing in advertising and never took a creative writing class. I just started researching and soaked Caroline in.”

Then she and her husband were invited to go to a Broadway play by neighbors and she started telling her host the story of Ferriday and the Ravensbruck victims. “She was a book editor and she said it would be great novel, to just send her a chapter.”

Subsequently, Kelly and her husband moved to Atlanta, where she drove through a Starbuck’s drive-through. “They mistakenly gave me regular coffee—I never drink caffeinated coffee. I went home and started writing.”

The rest was publishing history. Her book was a smash hit and now she has returned to the same source to ground her new bestseller, Lost Roses, this time fictionalizing a story about Caroline’s mother, Eliza, and her relationship during World War I with Russian émigrés.

“I found a clipping that was yellowed with age that had a picture of Caroline wearing a traditional Russian tiara and cradling a doll,” she said. “It was a story about her mother who had started to committee to help Russian émigrés by turning her apartment into a permanent bazaar. I was off again on that journey.”

Eliza actually existed but her Russian friend, the aristocratic Sofya, is fictional as is the peasant girl, Varinka, who offers the third point of view in the novel. Kelly said she embraces the idea of having three characters with divergent experiences.

“That three point of view structure allows me to do a lot of good things,” she said in the Podcast. “Eliza is based on historical fact but the other two are from my imagination. Sofya is based on several countesses. I wanted to show how it was for the aristocracy in Russia. They were in denial. That is part of the tension of that part of the book. Varinka, who is a peasant and who works in Varinka’s home … is young, and I wanted to show what it would have been like to be a young girl in that situation.”

She confesses that her love affair with the Ferridays continues unabated. “I have to say Eliza is my favorite character,” she said. “It was so lovely getting to know her better in this novel.”

Her Russian characters are based on research conducted in that society. “Sofya is a cousin to the Tsar, so I had to see all those fabulous palaces. The Amber Room and the Sapphire Room, covered in sapphires, showed the excesses of the tsars at a time when people were literally starving. I researched the peasant side in rural villages. It was good to see both sides.”

She immerses herself in the times she is trying to portray. “I try to be in the place I am writing about so I feel like I am reporting from where I am,” she said

In her second prequel, she will go back even further in time to the Civil War era and tells the story of Caroline’s ancestors, the philanthropic Woolsey women, staunch abolitionists who tended to wounded soldiers on the Gettysburg battlefield.

They will be 26 other acclaimed authors and illustrators at the August 2nd book signing, both local and internationally known. Dr. Henry Kissinger returns to sign copies of Kissinger on Kissinger, a collection of his oral history interviews while Tyler Kepner, national baseball reporter for the New York Times,will sign copies of his bestselling K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches.

History buffs can choose from early American history by Martha Saxton, The Widow Washington: The Life of Mary Washington (George’s mother), Brenda Wineapple’s acclaimed The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation; Matthew Stanley’s Einstein’s War: How Relativity Triumphed Amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War I, and D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose.

The gardening genre includes landscape designer Jan Johnsen’s Gardentopia and Jana Milbocker’s The Garden Tourist: 120 Destination Gardens and Nurseries in the Northeast. Cookbook authors Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough will also be present with The Instant Pot Bible and Freezer to Instant Pot.

And if you plan to start your holiday shopping early, seek out the philosophical cartoon duo of Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, who return with I Think, Therefore I Draw and the 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die by James Mustich.

Fiction lovers will find a wide array, including the literary, Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise, Roxana Robinson’s Dawson’s Fall and the Lakeville-based The Latecomers by Helen Klein Ross; the latest thriller by Sharon’s own Peter Steiner, The Good Cop. For Young Adult fiction can reach for Jennifer Donnelly’s retelling of the Cinderella story, Stepsister.

Susan Kinsolving, the acclaimed poet-in-residence at the Hotchkiss School, will sign copies of her new collection, Peripheral Vision.

And for children of all ages and their parents, grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles we feature beautiful and amusing choices from acclaimed picture book illustrators. Wendell Minor brings his latest, The Magic of Letters, Night Train, Night Train, and Wild Orca. Cornwall’s Caroline Nastro tackles bedtime with The Bear Who Couldn’t Sleep. Lane Smith has two new titles, Giraffe Problems and Tomorrow Most Likely. Giselle Potter brings the whimsical Olive & Pekoe: In Four Short Walks and Jacky Davis and David Soman return with the fun-loving Ladybug Girl and the Rescue Dogs. Royals Meghan and Harry play a part in The Duchess and Guy: A Rescue-to-Royalty Puppy Love Story by Nancy Furstinger.

Beginning readers will find a mystery of their own in Paul DuBois Jacobs and Jennifer Schwender’s Animal Inn: Whoooo Done It? Jennifer Schwender also presents her new middle grade novel, Solving for M. Middle graders will discover strong women from history in Emily Arnold McCully’s Dreaming in Code: Ada Byron Lovelace, Computer Pioneer and 21 Women Who Changed the Way We Think.

Six festive author dinners will be held in local homes immediately following the signing. Reservations can be made in person at the Library, by mail or by calling the library at 860-364-5041.

The following day, August 3rd, from 10AM-4PM, the library will hold its used book sale with early-bird buying at 9:30AM for $10. Prices from $1 to $5 plus specially priced collectible books. For more information, call 860 364-5041.