Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Freebie: Touch by Alexi Zentner

Congratulations to Thomas Baughman, winner of last week's Friday Freebie: The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse.

This week's book giveaway is Touch, a novel by Alexi Zentner.  I mentioned the book earlier here at the blog and while it's still in my To-Be-Read pile, I continue to be intrigued by Zentner's story which weaves together bitter cold, mythical creatures and northwoods logging.  At The Millions, Reese Okyong Kwon writes: "In Alexi Zentner’s debut novel Touch, as in life, nature is impersonal and brutish, as unpredictable as it is beautiful. Taking place in turn-of-the-century northern Canada in a small frontier logging town, this luminous novel tells the story of a pastor who, in returning home to his dying mother, has to confront the mysteries and ghosts of his childhood, and so of the woods."  Kwon conducts a great interview with Zentner and I was especially touched by this portion of the conversation:

The Millions:  In your comments in the PEN/O. Henry collection, you wrote that you knew you could become a writer when you showed the story to your wife and she read it, and started crying.  Did you have a lot of doubt before that about whether or not you could write fiction?  What about that moment was revelatory for you?

Alexi Zentner: My poor wife.  I was a stay-at-home father at that time and I was trying to write, so we hired a babysitter to come for two hours twice a week.  My wife is a school psychologist making a teacher’s salary, so that extra $50 a week was an investment for us.  Maybe a month into it, I wrote what ended up becoming the O. Henry story.  I showed it to her and I went to do some errands around the house, then I came back 20 minutes later, and she was crying.  I think my first response was, What’s wrong?  And when she said it was just the story I thought, All right.
       Early on, I was very scared about whether or not I was good enough.  I’d been a writer for a very long time, but also, not really.  The thing is, I had tried, but not very hard.  Because if you don’t try very hard, and you fail, you don’t have to feel that badly about it.  I think it’s terrifying when you say, “I’m really committed to this,” and you try your hardest and do your absolute best work.  Then, if you fail, you don’t have anything to hide behind.
       I have been fortunate in that I’ve had enough success with things that when things go poorly for me with my writing I’m able to look at outside successes to help them bolster my internal confidence.  It helps that I’m an unnaturally cheery person.

TM: Does your wife continue to read your work?

AZ: Yes, and to this day, if my wife reads something and she cries, that usually means that I did something right.  It’s funny—I can’t predict it.  My wife is a very good reader, and she’s not a writer, and that’s a hugely helpful thing.  She’s a canary in a coal mine, a great test for how well other people will respond to a piece.

For this week's contest question, I'm doing something a little different.  If you'd like a chance at winning a new hardcover copy of Touch, all you have to do is tell me which of these three covers for the novel you like the best (and if you're like me, you're allowed to say "All of them!"):

The US cover

The UK cover

The Canada cover

Email your answer to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Please e-mail me the answer, rather than posting it in the comments section.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until the contest closes at midnight on May 12--at which time I'll draw the winning name.  I'll announce the lucky reader on May 13.


  1. Thanks for the heads up about Touch. This definitely looks like one to savor.

  2. Sounds hauntingly beautiful. I like them all, but the first one is my favorite, given what little I know of the story.