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New Novel by CMU's Sharon Dilworth Portrays
Comedic Side of Neighborhoods and Middle Age
In "Year of the Ginkgo" Caroline Becomes Obsessed With Her Neighbors
PITTSBURGH—How well do you know your neighbors? You may know who shops online and what time they leave for work, but are they really anything more than acquaintances?
A new novel by Carnegie Mellon University Associate English Professor Sharon Dilworth, "Year of the Ginkgo," takes an interesting look at the dynamics of a neighborhood. Set in Pittsburgh's Shadyside area, Dilworth tells the story of Caroline, a middle-aged, married woman who lost her job and becomes focused on the goings-on of her neighbors. Caroline develops a fantasy crush on her neighbor's Scottish husband, and before long she has difficulty separating her fantasy from reality — until a harrowing situation jolts her back to her real life. At the same time, Caroline realizes that she is not the only person on the street who has difficulty facing reality.
"I became interested in how you know personal details of your neighbors' lives — like who orders shoes online and who hires someone to cut the grass — but you don't necessarily really know these people," Dilworth said. "I also find the prosaic comedy of American middle age to be a rich vein of inspiration."
Published by Unbound Press, "Year of the Ginkgo" has received considerable praise. Rodge Glass, the 2009 Somerset Maugham Award winner, said, "'Year of the Ginkgo' confirms that Sharon Dilworth is a remarkably talented writer. She has a keen eye for detail, an effortless, understated style and an instinct for revealing those uncomfortable dark truths simmering away below polite suburban surfaces."
For Dilworth, the most surprising reactions to the book have been from readers. "Real women have these romantic fantasies, and they will come up to me or email me to tell me about their fantasies with their boss or the UPS guy," she said.
Dilworth previously authored two collections of short stories, "The Long White" and "Women Drinking Benedictine." She has won the Iowa Award in Short Fiction and a Pushcart Prize in fiction. This semester, Dilworth is teaching screenwriting courses in Carnegie Mellon's Creative Writing Program. She also is the fiction editor of Autumn House Press.
Dilworth will read and sign copies of "Year of the Ginkgo" from 3 to 5 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 14 at Mendelson Gallery, 5874 Ellsworth Ave. in Shadyside. For more information about the book, visit http://unboundpress.wordpress.com/catalogue/year-of-the-ginkgo/.