Enter below for a chance to win a copy of Valerie Fraser Luesse’s new book, Almost Home.

Winner will be announced in the next Author Spotlight feature. Congratulations to Cheryl H. for winning Jocelyn Green’s Between Two Shores.

Please email my assistant Christen to claim your prize. Note: This post contains affiliate links meaning I will get a small commission if you click and buy from that link.

In 2018, award-winning magazine writer and bestselling author Valerie Fraser Luesse captivated readers with her debut novel Missing Isaac. Now she breathes life into a new cast of unforgettable characters in Almost Home, a complex and compassionate story of hurt and healing.

With America’s entrance into the Second World War, the South has become a melting pot of families looking for work in Uncle Sam’s shipyards and munitions plants. Virtually overnight, the town of Blackberry Springs, Alabama, is filled with displaced and disenfranchised boarders.

An estranged young couple from the Midwest, unemployed professors from Chicago, a widower from Mississippi, a shattered young veteran struggling to heal from the war—they’re all hoping
Dolly Chandler’s grand but fading family home turned boardinghouse will help them find their way back to the lives they left behind. But the house has a past of its own.

When tragedy strikes, Dolly’s only hope will be the circle of women under her roof and their ability to uncover her home’s ancient secret and discover the truth about what happened to a young bride who lived there a century before.

Almost Home is a compelling story of community—a story that celebrates sisterhood and women’s ability to connect and cheer each other on, no matter how difficult their circumstances may be.

Q&A with Valerie Fraser Luesse

I know an idea is good when… I can’t stop thinking about it and can’t wait to write about it.

The best day in my life (so far!) was when…Like a lot of women, I guess I’d say my wedding day, when all the planning and stressing was finally over, and my husband and I could just enjoy a really special time with our family and friends.

To de-stress, I like to…play the piano or garden. I’ve always loved music, but I had absolutely no interest in gardening until I was in my thirties and bought my first house. You can’t be a Southerner with a yard unless you know how to grow azaleas and hydrangeas. My mother, who’s a wonderful gardener, was so proud when I could finally tell a geranium from a begonia.

I stay in touch with the world through… mostly the internet, though I still like to get my hands on a real live newspaper. Tip: There is no better source for character names than the obituaries in a small-town Southern newspaper. I always split up first and last names so I’m not invading anyone’s privacy. I keep a little book of names on a shelf above my desk (because I once read an interview with Eudora Welty, who said she kept a book of names, and I have always been in awe of her).

I want to see…retirement! It’s very challenging to write books and work for a magazine full time, but I love what I do, and I’d miss the staff at Southern Living if I left tomorrow. The magazine has been my home away from home for more years than I’ll admit.

I keep organized by…Oh dear. I’ve tried so many “systems.” Years ago, the publisher I work for had all of the managers take a personality test, after which they tallied our scores and fixed us with descriptive labels. My label was “disorganized innovator.” There you go.

I wish I could travel to…the Gulf Coast and stay there. My husband and I absolutely love it—from Louisiana bayous to the flat water of Mississippi Sound to some of the prettiest surf and sand you’ll ever see in Alabama and Florida. We’ve never been to the Texas coast, but we’ve traveled the rest of the Gulf and never can get enough of it.

Three guests at my dream dinner party would be…Rosanne Cash, Fannie Flagg, and Dolly Parton—all writers, all strong creative women with a sense of humor.

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Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently the senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

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