In 1936, orphaned Evalina Toussaint was admitted to Highland Hospital which was a mental hospital. She is the narrator in Lee Smith’s emotionally stirring novel, Guests On Earth. Evalina resided at the facility for nine years, on and off and this is the story of her time there. Early on she became a favorite of the hospital director’s concert pianist wife. Evalina studied piano with her and eventually became an accomplished pianist in her own right. She came to know many of the patients, including Zelda Fitzgerald, and staff because of her participation in the music program.
Using evocative prose, the reader is drawn into Evalina’s sometimes fragile world. Complex and often puzzling characters are vividly brought to life. Especially fascinating is the interaction between the novel’s characters. Evalina’s observations and opinions are richly detailed. Her conversational tone places the reader in the room with her. There is sadness, grief and tragedy in this story, but camaraderie and hope are present, too.
Guests On Earth is a beautifully written story that brings together “fact and fiction”. It is a thought provoking novel and well worth reading.
I received this book free of charge through Library Thing and I give this review of my own free will.