BOOKS OVER DRINKS – April 19th
Two women, connected across time, edge toward transgression in pursuit of their desires.
A Mississippi woman pushes through the ruin of the Roman Colosseum, searching for plants. She has escaped her life, apprenticed herself to catalog all the species growing in this place. Crawling along the stones, she wonders how she has landed here, a reluctant botanist amid a snarl of tourists in comfortable sandals. She hunts for a scientific agenda and a direction of her own.
In 1854, a woman pushes through the jungle of the Roman Colosseum, searching for plants. As punishment for her misbehavior, she has been indentured to the English botanist Richard Deakin, for whom she will compile a flora. She is a thief, and she must find new ways to use her hands. If only the woman she loves weren’t on a boat, with a husband. But love isn’t always possible. She logs 420 species.
Through a list of seemingly minor plants and their uses—medical, agricultural, culinary—these women calculate intangible threats: a changing climate, the cost of knowledge, and the ways repeated violence can upend women’s lives. They must forge their own small acts of defiance and slip through whatever cracks they find. How can anyone survive?
Lush, intoxicating, and teeming with mischief, Katy Simpson Smith’s The Weeds is a tense, mesmerizing page-turner about science and survival, the roles women are given and have taken from them, and the lives they make for themselves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katy Simpson Smith was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She is the author of the novels The Story of Land and Sea, a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and one of Vogue’s Best Books of 2014; Free Men; and The Everlasting, a New York Times Best Historical Fiction Book of 2020. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Oxford American, Granta, Literary Hub, and elsewhere. She received a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and is also the author of We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835. She lives in New Orleans.
A Most Anticipated Book of 2023 at Literary Hub
A Most Anticipated LGBTQ Book of the Season at Electric Literature
“Luminous . . . A lyrical meditation on power, need, and love.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Erudite, playful, and filled with fury about gender inequality, [The Weeds] can be recommended to readers of cli-fi and feminist literary fiction.”
“[A] centuries-spanning story . . . Katy Simpson Smith muses on the constraints and choices of women trying simply to survive.”
—Eliza Smith, Literary Hub
“Ingenious . . . Potent details bring [The Weeds] to vibrant life . . . Readers will enjoy stopping to smell the clematis.”
“A novel that repurposes the old-school botanical survey as a way of sorting through curiosity and desire in their rawest forms, set against the high-romantic backdrop of the Roman Colosseum in plant-strewn, crumbling ruin.”
—Sam Bett, Literary Hub
“[A] subtle, intelligent work.”
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