Three Graces and Charlie
Three women loved the same man, and continue to love him, even after his suicide. Decades later, he still haunts their lives and their loves through marriages, affairs, and children. By reconnecting with each other, and facing the trauma of his death, they come to discover their true selves—and absolution.
In the early 1990s the popular college rock group, the Three Graces, takes the stage in DC and the crowd goes wild. Everyone agrees: the Graces have something special—and charismatic drummer Charlie Barrett is their heartbeat. Shortly after, Charlie leaps to his death, ending the band’s success and the Graces’ peace of mind.
Twenty years later, Thea, the group’s songwriter, decides to quit writing her highly successful erotic gardening blog, but is uncertain what will come next. She resolves to purge herself of Charlie’s ghost and begins writing a screenplay telling the story of Charlie and the Three Graces. Read an interview with lead protagonist, Thea.
Hazel, the band’s lead singer, ran away first from an abusive childhood home, and then ran again from Charlie’s suicide. Now a New York celebrity perfumer, she’s good at pretending to be happy. When her long-time lover dies, revealing his own façade—one Hazel never could have guessed—she seeks solace with her oldest friends, Thea and Natalie. The reception is decidedly mixed.
Meanwhile, an earthquake shakes Natalie out of her comfortable suburban existence, leading her to Neil, caretaker of the historic garden behind her house. As the distance between Natalie and her husband grows, she and Neil embark on a garden project—and more.
As this multi-strand story unfolds, each woman searches through past and present to understand the reason for Charlie’s death. Each struggles with the others, and with herself, ultimately reinventing themselves as women and as artists.
Still Life with Aftershocks
Set in early-1980s Washington, DC, Still Life with Aftershocks tells the story of 30-year old artist Mariah Boone and her older brother Henry.
When conservative Henry is appointed to a high level position in the Reagan White House, Mariah leaves her life in California to follow him to DC. Here, she would like nothing more than to make her art and find love in a city she often finds cold and unwelcoming. But when Henry—the black sheep of their bohemian family—is stricken with AIDS, Mariah puts her art and her search for love aside and devotes herself to his care.
At the same time, she struggles to hold down her job at the National Endowment for the Arts as her predatory boss makes increasingly unwelcome advances.
Forced out of the closet by his advancing illness, Henry resigns from his White House job and struggles to find new meaning in his short life.
As Henry’s illness deepens, Mariah dreads the inevitable visit by her parents—the famous painter father and rabble-rousing former Communist mother—from whom she and Henry are estranged. When Henry is hospitalized with pneumonia, the parents fly to DC from California to be with him. At Henry’s bedside, past and present collide in a shocking confrontation with the one person who knows the family’s long-buried secret.
After Henry’s death, Mariah, grieving, reconnects with her art and discovers new avenues of expression, while never letting go of the place Henry will always occupy in her heart.
Mariah’s lively first-person voice keeps the narrative upbeat, while she and Henry rise above victimhood with their wry observations, keen insights and flashes of humor. Serving up lots of vivid local color, Still Life takes readers to Dupont Circle on a Friday night, the open-air market in Adams Morgan, for a walk along the C&O Canal. Here we meet The Washington Post’s art critic, among other denizens of the art scene, as well as highly placed Log Cabin Republicans working in the White House.
Ellen Boyers Kwatnoski’s story, “Like with Like,” published in the Northern Virginia Review was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016. Her first novel, Still Life with Aftershocks, was one of 50 semi-finalists (out of 5,000 entrants) in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. She writes book reviews for The Washington Independent Review of Books, attends workshops at the Writers’ Center in Bethesda, MD, and blogs about art, design, and dance.