BEST BOOK BY A LOCAL AUTHOR - 2003
Was It Beautiful? by Alison McGhee
Like her two previous books, Rainlight and Shadow Baby, both Minnesota Book Award winners, Alison McGhee's latest novel circles around questions of grief and loss. Her setting is, again, the tiny Adirondacks town of Sterns, and characters from the previous books flit through this one, as though their lives were all threads of one tapestry. But Was It Beautiful? (Shaye Areheart Books) is primarily the story of William T., a man whose life has become a litany of Job-like suffering after the death of his son in an accident. "They were everywhere," McGhee writes, "and wherever William T. went from now on he would have to face people who had known his son, whose eyes slid away from him when he walked into a room, who had known him back when he was a man with a wife, a man with a son, a son he used to drive up to Remsen to greet the dawn with and then go to the diner and eat breakfast with, a man with an ordinary life, the only life he had ever wanted." Was It Beautiful? doesn't shy from the numbness and confusion that are the natural companions of such grief. Yet there's also a lightness and humor in McGhee's writing that suggests the possibility of, if not renewal, then at least something more than survival.