Enjoying the Sweet Land of Bigamy

July 18, 2012, by

Before dawn this morning, I grabbed the book that I had reluctantly laid on my bedside table late last night, when I could no longer keep my eyes open. It was Miah Arnold’s debut novel Sweet Land of Bigamy. I eagerly devoured the remaining 30 pages of this wonderfully quirky tale of a cast of realistically drawn characters caught in a love triangle. Miah is reading at Brazos Bookstore this Thursday at 7 pm, and I’m so glad that I had a chance to read it ahead of her book launch. I’ve known Miah since she was a graduate student at the UH Creative Writing Program, and have had the pleasure of hiring her to teach many writing workshops for Inprint. Everyone associated with Inprint should take special pride in Miah’s achievement, as she was the recipient of one of our first $10,000 prizes―the Inprint Diana P. Hobby Prize in Fiction, as well as the recipient of an Inprint Cambor Fellowship and Barthelme Prize.

Fellow fiction writer and UH Creative Writing Program alumna Gemini Wahhaj reviews the book very aptly: “I am slow, so it wasn’t until I started to write this that I got the title’s pun―the play on ‘sweet land of liberty.’ Ah! This twist in the title actually mirrors my reading experience of this wonderful, lovely novel. It was a fast read, beautiful, romantic, a love story (or two love stories), with a great plot. I enjoyed it very much and remember it with fondness. But at the same time, it was richly textured, with layers and layers of irony and meaning. Helen, the protagonist, is married to a war veteran and contractor who goes off to Iraq to work. She meets and marries another man while he is gone―now she has two husbands. Her second husband is a peace loving, Indian leftist. I fell in love with both of Helen’s men. Both love stories were equally moving. And the end, Helen’s solution, was the strangest and most satisfying twist I have read in a long time. This wonderful ending feels just right. It’s also a novel about two places, Utah and Houston, and two perspectives on America: the guy who went to Iraq and the guy who opposed the war. It’s a good read, and an enduring story.”

If you’re in Houston this week, please come to Brazos on Thursday and celebrate Houston’s literary riches.

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