The Prettiest Star
EW's 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2020
O Magazine's "31 LGBTQ Books That'll Change the Literary Landscape in 2020"
BookRiot's "Most Anticipated Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books of 2020"
Atlanta Journal Constitution's "10 Southern Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2020"
A stunning novel about the bounds of family and redemption, shines light on an overlooked part of the AIDs epidemic when men returned to their rural communities to die, by Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award-winning author Carter Sickels.
Small-town Appalachia doesn't have a lot going for it, but it's where Brian is from, where his family is, and where he's chosen to return to die.
At eighteen, Brian, like so many other promising young gay men, arrived in New York City without much more than a love for the freedom and release from his past that it promised. But within six short years, AIDS would claim his lover, his friends, and his future. With nothing left in New York but memories of death, Brian decides to write his mother a letter asking to come back to the place, and family, he was once so desperate to escape.
Set in 1986, a year after Rock Hudson's death shifted the public consciousness of the epidemic and brought the news of AIDS into living rooms and kitchens across America, The Prettiest Star is part Dog Years by Mark Doty and part Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. But it is also an urgent story now: it a novel about the politics and fragility of the body; it is a novel about sex and shame. And it is a novel that speaks to the question of what home and family means when we try to forge a life for ourselves in a world that can be harsh and unpredictable. It is written at the far reaches of love and understanding, and zeroes in on the moments where those two forces reach for each other, and sometimes touch.
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About the AuthorCarter Sickels is the author of the novel The Evening Hour. He is the recipient of the 2013 Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award, and has been awarded scholarships to Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, VCCA, and the MacDowell Colony. His essays and fiction have appeared in various publications, including Guernica, Bellevue Literary Review, and BuzzFeed, and he is the editor of Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships & Identity. Carter is Assistant Professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University, where he teaches in the Bluegrass Writers Studio Low-Residency MFA program. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky.
Advance Praise for The Prettiest Star
"As small-town news travels, Brian is vilified, accused of trying to spread AIDS, refused dentist and doctor visits, and shunned, and it tears apart his once close-knit family. The alternating narrators of Brian, Sharon, and Jess are fleshed out in all of their complexities and contradictions. This immersive, tragic book will stay with readers."--Booklist
"Amid the tragedy, threads of loyalty, strength, and pride result in a glimmer of hope--not for a happy ending, but for human beings' capacity to love one another through the worst crises. Devastating and impactful, The Prettiest Star captures the profound effects of the AIDS crisis, and the lies and bigotry that contributed to it."--Foreword Reviews
"Sickels' characters are painfully flawed and wholly, believably human in their failings. This unflinching honesty, conveyed in finely crafted prose, makes for a memorable and unsettling novel. Powerfully affecting and disturbing."―Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"A moving meditation on the encroaching inevitability of death. Have tissues handy for this one.." ―EW (Most Anticipated)
"This tragic story of AIDS and violent homophobia stands out by showing the transcendent power of queer communities to make their voices endure through art." ―Publishers Weekly
"Intricately crafted and beautifully written, The Prettiest Star is a must for your 2020 TBR." ―BookRiot (Most Anticipated LGBT Books of 2020)
"From its opening sentences Carter Sickels' The Prettiest Star makes it clear that too many queer narratives have been kept out of sight. Here a man returns to the town of his southern Ohio childhood at a point when his own day-to-day survival is at stake. Love doesn't come in to save him, or the family and friends upended by his presence. "Nothing transforms, there is no magic," says one character, and while there's darkness in those words, their down to earth candor does a lot to suggest why this novel feels so touching, affecting, rebellious, and real."--Paul Lisicky, author of Later
"Get ready for your heart to explode into an entire cosmos. Carter Sickels' The Prettiest Star is the story of a young man who must drag his body from the mouth of death back to the "home" that nearly killed him. The story of a queer desiring body moving through the crucibles of life toward song, toward rewriting family and whatever we mean by home, toward a kind of hope that comes from the dirt up and not the sky down. A heart triumph."--Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan
"The Prettiest Star is a lyrical and compulsively readable novel about the intricate, tangled bonds of family and the way human beings can be both profoundly cruel and surprisingly wonderful. These characters are people we know, and they'll stay with me for a very long time. This deeply moving novel is much more than the story of one family dealing with the worst tragedy of their lives in a small Ohio town in 1986. It's the story of all of us--the story of America, then and now, how far we've come, and how far we still have to go."--Silas House, author of Southernmost
"With the most inviting prose imaginable, Carter Sickels has written a beautiful, heartstring-tugging story about a young man searching for peace, and the family that loves him through thick and thin. The Prettiest Star is a novel I'll never forget."--De'Shawn Charles Winslow, author of In West Mills