COLUMBIA, 3/4/11 (Beat Byte) -- "Wonderfully immersive," with "delicate and precise prose" that reflects an "obvious affection for the English language."
"A treat for literary fiction fans."
A "marvelous novel" that "transported me to a fully imagined world."
From Publishers Weekly to the Library Journal, those are some of the raves Columbia resident Lise Saffran (left) has received for her new -- and first -- novel, Juno's Daughters, published in January by Plume, a Penguin Group imprint.
An Old Southwest resident, Saffran is co-director of the University of Missouri Master of Public Health program.
A modern-day take on Shakespeare's The Tempest, Juno's Daughters is set in Washington state's San Juan Islands, where two women -- Jenny Alexander and her oldest daughter Lilly -- are charmed by a charismatic visiting actor performing The Tempest in an annual Shakespeare festival with a traveling acting troupe.
Jenny and her two daughters join the production, playing Juno, Iris and Ceres.
Set amidst antique stores and eccentric inhabitants, Juno's Daughters is at heart a coming of age tale, for both mother and daughters. Suddenly realizing she is in competition with youth, beauty, and the vast horizons that youth commands, Jenny Alexander has to cope with 17-year-old daughter Lilly's full-on attempts to seduce the actor Andre, a man much closer to Jenny's age. Meanwhile, youngest daughter Frankie forms a bond with a young gay man playing Ariel, a spirit -- and the play's spiritual voice.
Rather than a love triangle, the story presents a love quadrangle, with Frankie left out of the feud between her mother and sister, coping in their absence from her own coming of age dilemmas.
Saffran's story is significant on another level. Ask any writer who's toiled to get agency representation, let alone a big house like Penguin to take up their work -- especially a first novel. In the ultra-competitive business world of fiction, it's a difficult feat few writers ever pull off.
Criss-crossing the nation in her spare time on a book tour, Saffran will be reading and discussing Juno's Daughters at the Daniel Boone regional library today and again on March 23.
"Saffran presents an easy-to-read, heartwarming tale of the mother-daughter relationship," says Julie Hunt with Booklist.