News & Politics

Book Review of “Flying Shoes” by Lisa Howorth

Debut novelist Lisa Howorth weaves something new from the true-life story of her brother's 1966 disappearance.

Mary Byrd Thornton, better known to most as “M’Bird,” lives in a Mississippi burg set in the here and now that nevertheless sounds like a town Eudora Welty might have created. When M’Bird learns that she must return to Virginia in order to help the police close the case on her long-dead stepbrother, her psychic and actual machinations set off a series of events that involve a penniless vet who lives in a shack behind the local grocery, a well-born but dissipated local lothario in khaki shorts, and her own idiosyncratic but loving nuclear family. Author Howorth, who co-owns Oxford, Mississippi’s Square Books with her husband, grew up in a fourth-generation DC family that did experience the horrendous loss of a son, a 1966 Washington Post front-page story. It has taken her decades to write this book, but it is (as blurbers Ann Patchett, Jayne Anne Phillips, and Bobbie Ann Mason will tell you) worth the long wait and the hard-won lessons that Howorth translates into sparkling, fast, funny prose. It might sound counter-intuitive to tell you that a book about long-ago loss and the deep scars it can leave is this year’s best beach read, but please trust me: You’ll be so engrossed by “Flying Shoes” that you may wind up with a book-shaped sunburn across your face.