By George B. Kauffman
The Outcast Oracle by Laury A. Egan, Humanist Press, Washington, DC, 2013, paperback $13.95. ISBN 978-0-931779-36-7
This entrancing novel, full of irony, humor, attacks on societal conventions, and serious revelations about the ruses and abuses of organized religion, is set on the shores of New York’s Lake Ontario.
In 1959 14-year-old Charlene (Charlie) Beth Whitestone has been deserted by her parents, leaving her in the custody of her grandfather, Charles Barrett Whitestone (C.B). Although he loves Charlie, he is a charming con artist, moonshiner, and religious fraud who inducts her into his various enterprises yet also encourages her dreams of becoming a writer. When C.B. suddenly dies, Charlie is left alone and must use her wits and resourcefulness to take charge of her life, all the while wrestling with the morality of continuing her grandfather’s schemes. When a handsome cowboy-stranger, Blake, arrives, he insinuates himself into C.B.’s religion business and into Charlie’s heart. Despite her resistance, Blake mounts a lucrative PR campaign, touting Charlie as an “oracle” and arranging for her to perform miracles.
Laury A. Egan’s fiction and poetry has appeared in more than 35 literary journals and anthologies. She has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Web, and Best of the Net. Her collection, Fog and Other Stories, was shortlisted for a Saboteur Award in the United Kingdom. A story was a finalist for the Glass Woman Prize, and another was a finalist in their Ghost Story contest. She lives on the coast of New Jersey.
George B. Kauffman, Ph.D., chemistry professor emeritus at California State University, Fresno and Guggenheim Fellow, is recipient of the American Chemical Society’s George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education, Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach, and Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution, and numerous domestic and international honors. In 2002 and 2011, he was appointed a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society, respectively.