It is 1967 at the end of a long, hot summer. On a Saturday afternoon in Centerville, a sleepy Midwestern town, a disaffected husband enters a busy drugstore where his estranged wife works and sets a bag with a homemade bomb on the floor. Outside the drugstore, a fourteen-year-old girl places her hand on the door, then inexplicably turns away and keeps walking. Moments later, standing safely inside a bowling alley with her best friend, she hears a sound like thunder.
With one devastating explosion, the town is changed forever. In the next few days, four lives become entwined, as the townspeople face sudden loss and new, unpredictable realities. Set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and the escalating Vietnam War, Centerville forms an engrossing meditation on the complex questions that arise in the wake of senseless violence.
"A unique novel of smalltown America that begins with an explosion so wonderfully described you won't be able to put the book down. Karen Osborn combines considerable literary gifts with a storyteller's skills to produce the unforgettable Centerville."
-Anita Shreve, author of The Pilot's Wife and Rescue
“Osborn’s powerful novel, set during the dog days of summer in a small Midwestern town in 1967, begins with a bang when a man bombs the drugstore employing his estranged wife. The tragedy devastates a community just beginning to feel the repercussions of the escalating Vietnam War and the growing civil rights movement, and Osborn focuses on four individuals to map the intersections of local drama and a world in upheaval. Already troubled by decisions confronting members of his flock, a minister falls from grace when the presumed dead bomber surreptitiously seeks his counsel. The minister’s own daughter narrowly escaped the bombing, a coincidence that leaves her confused and ignites her adolescent anger and angst, framing her as a compelling window into the ’60s youth movement. The druggist’s widow quells her grief with an act of redemptive creation, and a policeman desperately hunts the bomber, all the while struggling to train the force’s first black officer amid an atmosphere of casual racism. Osborn (Patchwork), employing a restrained ruthlessness, maintains the tension throughout, and appropriately refuses easy outs for a satisfying conclusion.”
“It’s the summer of 1967; the news is awash with race riots and the escalating war in Vietnam. In the aftermath of a brutal and premeditated act of violence, the residents of a somnolent American town find themselves in a new world full of menace and fear. Karen Osborn’s deeply affecting novel Centerville keeps the incomprehensibility of evil always in focus, as her characters - young, old, brave, cowardly, driven by doubt, and committed to faith - struggle to find a way back to the innocence they once took for granted. In this subtle, beautifully written novel, the reader can almost hear the gates of paradise slamming closed on the American dream.”
-Valerie Martin, author of Property and The Confessions of Edward Day
“As with In Cold Blood or The Sweet Hereafter, Karen Osborn’s beautifully written Centerville uses a single, horrific, small-town act of violence to dissect the values and morals of an entire culture-a culture that is at once violent and brutal, materialistic and superficial, yet capable of moments of heroism, compassion, and redemption. When a historical novel seems as if its subject isn’t the past at all but rather pulled right from America’s latest cycle of mass murder and senseless carnage, and when that novel does it with Osborn’s brilliant prose and deep insight into the dark alleys of our twisted nature, then we can rejoice that perhaps there’s still a chance, albeit a small one, for the human race.”
-Michael White, author of Beautiful Assassin and Soul Catcher
“Most writers would stumble over the top describing a blast that literally explodes the personality of a small town. In the hands of a master of craft, like Karen Osborn, devastation is rendered with devastating restraint. You may try to forget Centerville, but you never will.”
-Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean
Award Winning Novelist
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