While You Were Gone
by Sybil Baker
Beneath the surface are secrets that run as deep as the Tennessee River
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As young adults growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the three Nash sisters are still haunted by their mother’s early death. Shannon, the middle sister, wants to be an investigative journalist. Paige, the youngest, wants to channel Bessie Smith, her mother’s favorite singer. Claire, the oldest, desires stability through family and career.
When their father is diagnosed with terminal cancer, the sisters cope with the loss in different ways. Recovering from divorce and the collapsing journalism industry, Shannon manages a bottom-feeder rag and considers having a child for her cousin and his lover, an Army veteran. After Paige is kicked out of her band, she becomes obsessed with a reclusive songwriter she wants to make famous against his will. Claire’s family and career are threatened by her attraction to a new hire she supervises, an African American who ignites her passion for literature and the deeper questions it asks of her. But, when their family’s uncovered secrets threaten all they’ve known, the sisters will have to choose between lives they’ve dreamed of and those they love.
Inspired by Chekhov’s Three Sisters with echoes of King Lear, While You Were Gone traces the journeys of three sisters growing up in and returning to a hometown that, like them, seems to reflect a new South. But beneath the surface changes are secrets that run as deep as the Tennessee River. While You Were Gone explores how three sisters living in the American South in the twenty-first century deal when their own dreams collide with their own misconceptions about family, race, gender, and the larger world
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About the Author
Sybil Baker is the author of The Life Plan, Talismans, and Into This World. She is a UC Foundation Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and teaches at the Yale Writer’s Conference. She has received two Make Work Artist Grants and an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Tennessee Arts Commission. She is Fiction Editor at Drunken Boat..