Anybody who knows Nancy Olson knows when the veteran bookseller and former owner of Quail Ridge Books & Music recommends a book, well, folks likely take heed and read.
Among her current Top 4 picks: “Salt in the Sugar Bowl,” a novella by Angela Belcher Epps that unconsciously pricks our consciousness about the lasting, residual effects of abandonment, and hope in healing beyond them.
Epps, a Midtown author and educator, invites us inside the cover during a reading at 3 p.m. today at Quail Ridge Books & Music.
“It’s one of those rare gems that come across your vision that you don’t expect to find,” said Olson. “I gave it a shot – and I could not put it down. It was so compelling, it emotionally touched me. Everybody faces these universal situations.
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“I want to tell everybody about this book.”
Epps’ “Salt in the Sugar Bowl” introduces Sophia Sawyer as she walks away from her six children, leaving them to be raised by their father.
The real story unfolds as each chapter greets one of Sophia’s six children, now adults whose “abandonment issues will resurface time and time again as the struggle to live, love, and trust, as if their hearts were whole and unscarred,” Epps said.
“The book is a way of highlighting abandonment, which is really the sickness of our time,” said Epps, 57. “It’s a way of talking about an issue people don’t even realize is running their lives, a way to talk about some deep psychological issues.
“Through those children, I hope people really have some revelations.”
Until we take time to reflect on our own lives and accept that our past experience paints our present existence, can we acknowledge life-long fallout from abandonment and seek any fixing that is in order, Epps said.
Although purely fiction, Epps said her book unveiled her own connection to abandonment.
Epps was raised mostly in eastern North Carolina by her grandparents. When they died, she went to live with her mother in New York. “I did OK, but a lot of people didn’t do OK,” she said.
Epps spent much of her career writing grants and developing programs with the NYC Board of Education. She also earned a Masters from the New York University Creative Writing Program. Epps returned to her roots in the 90s, eventually settling in Raleigh. She now teaches at Mary E. Phillips, an alternative high school, where she recently traded teaching English to work with students in crises. “Salt in the Sugar Bowl” is her second book.
“It really has been an interesting journey,” Epps said of her conversations with others since “Salt in the Sugar Bowl” was published in April by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. “It cuts across color and race and gender, and I think it’s because abandonment is a universal theme.
“A lot of people don’t encounter it, but a helluva lot of us do.”
That reality resonated during a well-attended, high-energy book party hosted by the wife of Raleigh poet Lenard D. Moore, founder of the Carolina African-American Writers’ Collective that Epps joined.
“Her writing is fluid - some is even poetic, and the plot is good,” said Moore, author of “Temple Looming” and an associate professor of English at the University of Mount Olive. “Her characters are so realistic, and the thread of abandonment works throughout the novella and helps you care for the characters. She’s a writer to watch.”