home   biography   books   news   gallery  

readings   press   mailing list

news of jonis agee

Jonis wins Editor's Prize for Fiction from Fifth Wednesday:

True to its title, Jonis Agee’s story “The Plane of Primary Focus” works like a Mobius strip of suffering. Right when you think you know where this chatty aggrieved narrator, who holds you tight by the lapels, has her sights fixed, you find she and Agee have placed you in a completely different room. If fiction is a house, as Henry James suggests, Agee’s story would be like that of the famously nutty widow, somewhere near San Jose, California, who kept crafting additions to her house which were essentially architectural red herrings: closet doors opening to nothing, stairways doubling upon themselves. By Agee’s story’s end, we swallow, along with our surprising narrator, a lump in the throat. The repressed will return. Yet in Agee’s masterful hands, this eventuality has less to do with time and more with that excruciating pain: focus.–Edie Meidav, Judge, Editor’s Prize for Fiction, Fifth Wednesday

―――――

 

Jonis and co-writer Brent Spencer win the Gold Level Award for their screenplay Baghdad Rules in the 2010 California Film Awards 

 

―――――

 

Jonis and co-writer Brent Spencer win "Best of Action" for their screenplay Baghdad Rules in the 2010 Chicago Screenwriters Network Contest. Click here for more information. The screenplay was also among the top 25% of entries for the 2010 Page International Screenwriting Awards.

―――――

 

Jonis wins the George Garrett Award for Community Service from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, 2010. Click here to read more.

 

―――――

 

Jonis wins the Outstanding Research and Creativity Award (ORCA) from the University of Nebraska for 2010. To see a video about Jonis and the ORCA Award, click here.

 

―――――

 

Jonis Agee wins the Mark Twain Award for Distinguished Contribution to Midwestern Literature from The Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, 2009

 

―――――

 

Jonis Agee wins 3rd place in the Silver Screenwriting Awards for "Everlasting," a script she co-wrote with husband Brent Spencer. The script was also a semi-finalist for the Page International Screenwriting Competition, 2009.

 

―――――

 

Jonis wins the Distinguished Artist Award and Backwaters Press Publication Award from the Nebraska Arts Council, 2008

 

―――――


Jonis Agee Wins John Gardner Fiction Book Award for 2008

The State University of New York at Binghamton awarded Jonis its coveted book award for The River Wife. Judge Vivian Shipley said, "The River Wife by Jonis Agee grabbed me by the scruff of my neck, shook me and did not release me until the last page." [Click here to read more.]

 

―――――

River Wife one of 30 Novels Worth Buying for the Cover Alone!

AbeBooks.com has included The River Wife  among its selection of thirty novels whose covers alone are enough to make readers swoon. Click the link above for more details.

―――――


Jonis Agee Wins!

Jonis Agee has won the Mark Twain Award for 2008, given annually by the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature for distinguished contributions to Midwestern literature. The award will be presented to Jonis at the organization's banquet in East Lansing, MI on May 9th as part of the organization's yearly conference.

 

―――――

The River Wife by Jonis Agee

by Phil Hey
Briar Cliff Review

April 17, 2008

This book is beautifully, masterfully written, ... Here, I propose, is where Jonis Agee most earns the adjective "masterful." It is easy to write pulpy historical romances, but it is tremendously difficult to write so that every detail has the ring and feel of truth, which is what you’ll find here. I despise finding technical or chronological errors in fiction; they remind me I’m reading "only" fiction. One fine sentence after another here, I’m convinced—as I am with Mark Twain—that this author knows the territory and won’t settle for less. The river is right, the dirt and smoke are right, the dense wetland brush is right, the horses are right, the way the men use weapons is right, the way the food is cooked is right ... and the love is too. We put up with so much from the people we truly love, and they with us. How else could Annie put up with husband Jacques' riverman companions, and his use of slaves to build their house and "Jacques' landing," an inn for boatmen? How else could Hedie put up with Clement's mysterious late-night doings, and what was it going to cost her in the end? I do not mean to make The River Wife sound soapy or bad-romantic, because this author is also expert in avoiding sentimentalism ... while at the same time she knows how to grip us page by page, sentence by sentence, so that we want to read on. Those limits are where all the Ducharmes seem obliged to live, notwithstanding the depth and decency of the women they marry and take to their own limits—giving this novel a classical unity and authority almost lost in our time. The River Wife is not only strongly recommended—it deserves a place in the modern American canon.

 

―――――

"Emotions Run Swift in River Wife"

by Susan Kelly

USA Today
August 14, 2007

The setting of Jonis Agee's multigenerational portrait of a family that definitely is haunted, and most likely cursed, is a land drenched in somnolent, seductive beauty and capable of swift, fearsome violence. The same can be said of many of the characters in The River Wife, Agee's fifth novel, a sprawling tale of the women allied—either through marriage, money or birth—with fur trader and river pirate Jacques Ducharme. Their lives are governed by passion, their desires fueled by love, greed and jealousy. ...
Agee's novel is fascinating. ... Agee is a gifted storyteller. Life is difficult but never dull in the house that Jacques built. [Click here to read more.]
 

―――――

"Writing History: Jonis Agee Weaves the Pioneer Past into a New Novel"

by Alden Mudge

Bookpage

August 2007

Jonis Agee didn’t intend for her 10th book, The River Wife, to become her first historical novel. Instead, she set out to tell a more contemporary story of life in the heartland, as she had done in her 1993 novel Strange Angels, which was a New York Times Notable Book, and in her highly praised short story collections Acts of love on Indigo Road and Bend This Heart. But sometimes a book has intentions of its own. [Click here to read more]

―――――

July 27, 2007. If you see a big red pickup rattling down the highway from Milwaukee to Oxford, Tennessee, it will be Jonis fresh from a series of successful readings, book signings, and media appearances across the Upper Midwest. She don't stop for nothing, but she slowed down for us! See "Readings" for more details.

 

―――――

 

"River Gothic" by Yvonne Zipp

Christian Science Monitor, July 24, 2007

Pirates, the legacy of slavery, natural history, romance, and Southern Gothic tradition combine in Jonis Agee's atmospheric new novel. ... Fans of Southern Gothic will ... find The River Wife a savory gumbo of melodrama and beautiful writing. [Click here to read more]

―――――

 

The River Wife by Jonis Agee

by Bernadette Murphy

Los Angeles Times

July 20, 2007

"Filled with high Southern gothic flavor, the narrative is epic in scope, covering a series of generations and bursting with entwined layers of plot tension, sex, violence and intrigue. . . . The writing throughout is lush, as the author examines the addictive allure of risk, along with the blessings and curses of family ties, especially those formed by marriage." [Click here to read more.]

―――――

The River Wife  is #12 on the Heartland Independent Bestseller List for the week of July 22, 2007 (Based on reporting from the independent booksellers of the Midwest Booksellers Association, the Great Lakes Booksellers Association, and Book Sense.)

 

―――――

 

"Southern Gothic: A ghost abandoned in the 19th century finds her voice in the modern age" by Jennifer Vanderbes

Washington Post Bookworld, July 22, 2007

In the late 19th century, as the United States struggled to recover from the Civil War and the spiritualist movement reached its peak, the idea that a person could be haunted by the past moved beyond metaphor. Writers such as Willa Cather, Kate Chopin, Sarah Orne Jewett and Henry James introduced the supernatural into their work. No longer was the past conveyed in flashback and dialogue alone; the past became an actual woman in a blue or white dress, standing by a window, whispering about how she'd been wronged. So it's in keeping with the spirit of that time that in Jonis Agee's The River Wife, set in 19th-century Missouri, a wronged woman haunts the story. This engaging novel traces the loves and losses of three generations of women. . . . With Annie metaphorically and literally haunting the novel, Agee seems to suggest that she cannot be silenced. Literary ghosts are almost always female, giving voice to those that the living world has rendered powerless. Just as the ghost in Toni Morrison's Beloved is an infant and the narrator of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones is a murdered girl, Annie, although twice abandoned, is given immortality. [Click here to read more

(registration required)]

 

―――――

"Riverside Love, Guilt and Loyalty" by Robin Vidimos
The Denver Post, July 21, 2007

Jonis Agee's The River Wife sprawls across generations of women and pirate men, enfolding love and grief and complicity. Agee's narrative is as deep as it is broad, peopled by finely drawn characters of thought-provoking complexity. ... Agee's prose is contemplative and lovely. As Hedie comes "to hold hands with every dead person" who has preceded her in her home, she is guided and brought to understanding by their stories. She is haunted, both literally and figuratively, by their presence but these specters bring not fear, but wisdom, acceptance and peace. [Click here to read more]

―――――

 

Get thee behind me, boy wizard! The River Wife sells out at Jonis's reading at Micawber's Bookstore in St. Paul! Eager fans were seen "liberating" copies from the reserve pile!

 

―――――

 

The River Wife by Jonis Agee

by Bernadette Murphy

Los Angeles Times

July 20, 2007

"Filled with high Southern gothic flavor, the narrative is epic in scope, covering a series of generations and bursting with entwined layers of plot tension, sex, violence and intrigue. . . . The writing throughout is lush, as the author examines the addictive allure of risk, along with the blessings and curses of family ties, especially those formed by marriage." [Click here to read more.]

―――――

 

"Swift water ahead:
Agee's historical novel runs deep with emotion and frontier detail"

by Seth Taylor

San Diego Union-Tribune

July 15, 2007

"A historical novel that rewires the rules with a unique gothic elegance. ... their struggles with love and family are real, and their emotions are fierce, thanks to Agee's careful attention. ... [Agee's] Southern gothic prose is raw and graceful, as she drenches her characters in emotions too real to be diffused by a romantic filter. Men and women fall in love quickly and viscerally. When mothers lose their children, they either withdraw and wither, or they lash out with a murderous temper. Husbands and wives who want to remain faithful are still fanned by both desire and guilt. And women in love will sacrifice what's necessary to push back the wildness of the river." [Click here to read more.]

―――――

Publishers Weekly Review of The River Wife (Starred Review)

Agee (Sweet Eyes; Strange Angels) delivers an enthralling family saga set in Missouri's boot heel, a place so remote, "it's as if the whole state of Missouri has been trying to shake it off for years, like a vestigial tail." Seventeen-year-old Hedie Rails arrives in 1930 as the pregnant bride of Clement Ducharme at his family estate, but little does Hedie know that she's carrying on a tradition: in 1811, young Annie Lark is rescued from the Midwestern New Madrid earthquake by French fur trapper Jacques Ducharme and becomes the first "river wife." Hedie discovers this—along with the dark side of the Ducharme legacy—through old diaries she finds at the family home. She also learns of the other women involved with Jacques: Omah, the freed slave girl who joins him in river piracy, and Laura, his fortune-hunting second wife whose daughter, Maddie, is Clement's mother As Hedie's experiences become increasingly ominous (where does Clement go at night, and why does he come home beaten up? Are those footsteps she hears upstairs?), parallels develop between her life and those of past river wives. Lush historical detail, a plot brimming with danger, love and betrayal, and a magnificent cast (Jacques is larger than life, and the wives are sassy, sexed-up spitfires) will keep readers entranced. (July)

―――――

Booklist Review of The River Wife:

Agee’s long-awaited fifth novel is more than simply a work of fiction; rather, it’s an all-consuming experience. From the moment Hedie Rails arrives in Jacques’ Landing, Missouri, in 1930 as Clement Ducharme’s young bride, readers are swept into a tale of passion, deceit, and misfortune steeped in the best southern gothic tradition. “This isn’t a land to love, is it?” remarks Hedie about the unforgiving, table-flat Missouri Bootheel region, and she’s right. As she reads the diaries of Annie Lark, crippled in the New Madrid earthquake of 1811 and rescued by French fur trapper Jacques Ducharme, Hedie learns about her new husband’s disturbing family legacy. The enigmatic Jacques amasses a fortune as a Mississippi river pirate, and the quest for his illicit wealth preoccupies the women of later generations. These include Laura, an Irish adventuress who becomes Jacques’ second wife; Omah, the freed slave who’s his partner in crime; and Maddie, Laura’s daughter. This mesmerizing saga teeming with memorable characters, sharp depictions of frontier life, and lucid, beautifully wrought prose will haunt readers long afterward. —Sarah Johnson

―――――

The River Wife chosen Best Book of the Month for July 2007, Book-of-the-Month Club

―――――

The River Wife chosen for Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Guild, and Quality Paperback Book Club (Main Selection)

―――――

Full Throttle, Jonis's movie, is finishing post-production, directed by Oley Sassone and produced by Roger Corman for New Horizons Picture Corporation.

  

jonisagee.com