Turn the Page: After calling off last year’s event, the City Wide Read is back on

Published 7:01 am Saturday, February 13, 2021

This week  the Austin Page Turners announced their featured author for its annual City Wide Reading Event, which will take place on May 22.

And people may recognize her: Alison McGhee. The author, and her book “Never Coming Back,” was originally chosen as last year’s featured author but in a plot twist nobody saw coming, COVID-19 ruined the event and forced its cancellation.

“Alison has been very patient and nice to work with,” said Page Turners member Bonnie Rietz.

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McGhee isn’t an unknown face to Austin. Some, like Peggy Benzkofer, remember the author as having come to Austin to speak to another group.

“I’ve been a fan of Alison’s for years,” Benzkofer said. “She spoke here in Austin many years ago at an [American Association of University Women] meeting. I was very impressed with her at the time. She has a great gift for making her characters come alive.”

Never Coming Back,” tells the story of Clara Winter, who left her home in the rural Adirondacks for college with the idea of never coming back. She was encouraged by her mother, Tamar, to pursue this life, but after more than a decade, Clara returns home to care for a mother in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Underneath it all is the mystery of why Tamar wished for her daughter to leave her home.

“The topic, at the time, was really relevant and I think it still is,” Rietz said. “It talks about a mother that has Alzheimer’s and a woman that comes back to take care of her mother. I know several of my friends that have done that.”

Fans will get a two-in-one special this year. Between when last year’s event was to take place and this year, McGhee has released another book, giving people something else to talk about — “The Opposite of Fate.”

“ The other part we were excited about is the second book that we hadn’t read yet,” said Julie Clinefelter, executive director of the Austin Public Library. Along with copies of “Never Coming Back,” the library also has this latest book people can check out.

This recent news; however, doesn’t take away how different this year’s event will look. COVID-19 will still be a factor and so Page Turners will have to adapt. There will be no author visit to Austin High School and instead of a presentation being held indoors, it will be held at 1 p.m. on May 22 beneath a tent next to the library.

“Because we didn’t get to have it last year and it’s been inside for so long, it’s exciting to be outside,” Clinefelter said.

The author’s workshop will also still be held.

“We have a really active group of authors,” Rietz said. “Each year the author’s workshop is well attended.”

That event will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon, before McGhee’s presentation.

Currently, the library has about 30 copies of “Never Coming Back,”  and around five of “The Opposite of Fate.” Both books are also available by ebook and audiobook.