Portland writer Vanessa Veselka’s debut, Zazen (Red Lemonade), won the 2012 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize in 2012. She wrote the book at age 40 while driving a cab, raising her child, and waiting tables. She returns today to read from and discuss The Great Offshore Grounds (Knopf), which is in part an homage to the books that meant the most to her. In The Great Offshore Grounds, two half sisters, Cheyenne and Livy, set off to claim their inheritance. Cheyenne is newly back in Seattle, crashing with Livy after a failed marriage and a series of dead ends. Livy works refinishing boats, her resentment against her freeloading sister growing as she tamps down dreams of fishing off the coast of Alaska. But the promise of a shot at financial security brings the two together to claim what's theirs.
"The Great Offshore Grounds reminded me of what a great novel can do--Veselka's seafaring epic has the forward momentum of a grand adventure and the spiraling depth of a new myth. All the pleasure of eighteenth century storytelling renewed for our newborn millennium. I love this textured, tonally complex wonder of a book, a quest for Melville's 'unimaginable sublimity' that never shies away from the messy flux of the body, or the oceanic scope of our shared global history. It's also a blast to read--darkly hilarious, astral, cerebral, suspenseful, warm-blooded, divine." --Karen Russell.
"I immediately fell in love with the phenomenal sisters at the heart of Vanessa Veselka's supernova of a new novel, The Great Offshore Grounds. This novel is thrilling in its content, daring in heart, and makes a helix between a novel of ideas and the best damn story of women who forge their identities on their own terms that I've read in years." --Lidia Yuknavitch.