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A Novel

List Price: $15.95

September 29, 2009 | Paperback | 5 x 8, 352 Pages | ISBN 9781582435121
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"I happily follow Cornelia Nixon's exquisite prose wherever it takes me. Her writing is witty, honest, and profound." —Vendela Vida, author of Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

Based on a true story from the author’s family history, Jarrettsville begins in 1869, amid chaos and confusion in the moments following Martha Jane Cairnes’s murder of her fiancé in front of fifty witnesses and former Union militia members.

To find out why she killed him, the story steps back to 1865, six days after the Confederate surrender, when President Lincoln has just been killed by John Wilkes Booth. Booth belongs to the same Rebel militia as Martha’s hotheaded brother Richard, who has gone missing. Martha is loyal to her brother but in love with Nicholas McComas, a local hero of the Union cause. Their affair is fraught with echoes of the bloody conflict just ended and destined to be divided by it.

Set in northern Maryland, six miles below the Mason-Dixon line—where brothers literally fought on opposing sides, and former slave-owners live next door to abolitionists and freedmen—Jarrettsville uses as a backdrop the most precarious and contentious era in American history. Such tension proves key to Martha’s motives in killing the man she loves, and why—astonishingly—she is soon acquitted by a jury of her peers.

Told from several perspectives, Jarrettsville is an unforgettable experience, and Nixon’s best book yet.

CORNELIA NIXON has written two novels, Now You See It and Angels Go Naked, as well as a book of literary criticism on D.H. Lawrence. She has published stories in numerous publications, and has won two O. Henry Awards, two Pushcart Prizes, a Nelson Algren Prize, and the Carl Sandburg Award for Fiction. She teaches in the MFA program at Mills College and lives in Berkeley, California.


“I happily follow Cornelia Nixon’s exquisite prose wherever it takes me. Her writing is witty, honest, and profound.” —Vendela Vida, author of Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

“A haunting and powerful evocation of a neglected moment in the American story. Nixon is a writer of unusual gifts; her prose rises to the level of poetry, flawlessly capturing the authentic, earthy flavor of a blood-soaked land.” —Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother and Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

Jarrettsville is a haunting and tender love story. I was gripped from the first page. Nixon renders her star-crossed lovers in sharp detail, making the past feel fresh and alive. A vivid, absorbing, and beautifully written novel.” —Lisa Michaels, author of Split: A Counterculture Childhood

Jarrettsville, Cornelia Nixon’s stunning new novel, is a joyous, sensual tragedy; a series of penetrating psychological portraits; and a spellbinding chronicle of love and the aftermath of war. Emotionally and morally complex, the book is as brave as it is gripping: its characters and voices feel poignant, unexpected, revealing, and utterly alive.” —Sarah Stone, author of The True Sources of the Nile


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