About the Book
It’s 1994 and Lenore Littlefield is a junior at Briarwood School for Girls. She plays basketball. She hates her roommate. History is her favorite subject. She has told no one that she’s pregnant. Everything, in other words, is under control.
Meanwhile, Disney has announced plans to build a new theme park just up the road, a “Technicolor simulacrum of American History” right in the middle of one of the most history-rich regions of the country. If successful, the development will forever alter the character of Prince William County, VA, and have unforeseeable consequences for the school.
When the threat of the theme park begins to intrude on the lives of the faculty and students at Briarwood, secrets will be revealed and unexpected alliances will form. Lenore must decide whom she can trust—will it be a middle-aged history teacher struggling to find purpose in his humdrum life? A lonely basketball coach tasked with directing the school play? A reclusive playwright still grappling with her own Briarwood legacy? Or a teenage ghost equally adept at communicating with the living via telephone or Ouija board?
Following a cast of memorable characters as they reckon with questions about fate, history, and the possibility of happiness, At Briarwood School for Girls is a stunning and inventive new work from a master storyteller.
Praise for At Briarwood School for Girls
“With evocative language and a true sense of place, Southerner Michael Knight combines a coming-of-age tale, a ghost story and a meditation on history in his engrossing latest novel… Does history repeat itself? Is it ‘just a story we tell ourselves about the past’? Featuring clever plot twists, the colorful At Briarwood School for Girls takes the reader on a memorable ride.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Knight’s tone, here and in all his fiction, is quiet, thoughtful. In this very readable novel, there is plenty of humor. There is conflict, but serious matters are considered without melodrama or pyrotechnics. Humans are all infinitely complicated, with histories we never know of, and while some characters behave badly, they are misguided, not evil.”—Alabama Public Radio
“An inventive coming of age tale.”— Southern Living
“Knight builds a beautifully haunted atmosphere that leads both the characters and the readers into gentle contemplation. The quirky, yet authentic, cast inspires readers to become invested in even the smallest details of their lives. With At Briarwood School for Girls, Michael Knight effortlessly weaves a world of real history and wavering reality, creating a magic entirely his own.”—Deep South Magazine
“From veteran Knight, a deft, charming Southern coming-of-age novel—one that pays both attention and tribute to the legacy of the million-pound behemoth in that genre, To Kill a Mockingbird… A quick-paced, sharp, cleverly designed book by a talented writer.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Knight’s characters are memorable and nuanced—a credit to his sharp, skillful writing. This is a stunning novel with a hint of the supernatural that’s sure to delight readers.”—Publishers Weekly
“I love Michael Knight’s ability to turn a phrase and tell us about everything we need to know about a character in one sharp sentence.”—Rebecca Joines-Schinsky, Book Riot
“I adore boarding school novels. I love the way they use their setting as a container, a kind of incubator, for developing hearts and minds. The best are filled with situations where students and staff come up against their intellectual and physical limits. Michael Knight’s At Briarwood School for Girls is a remarkable addition to this rich tradition. At its center is Lenore Littlefield, a student with a couple close friends and a big secret, but Knight also ably breathes life into, and develops points-of-view for the people (peers and faculty) that orbit around her. On top of that, At Briarwood is a fascinating look at the risks places face, the formidable threat in this case being Disney Corporation. His style is smooth, the prevailing mood of the novel strikes a fine balance between serious and droll, and the story strands move swiftly. I can’t remember the last book I’ve read that treated adolescent feeling with so much adult intelligence.”—John Francisconi, Bank Square Books
“Like a package of sweets sent from home, At Briarwood School for Girls is replete with the familiar, beloved, humorous elements of a boarding school book—old trees and legacies, a headmistress, a ghost, and girls out of uniform—and surprise at what real life offers up. I read the book in an evening—so irresistible and satisfying was it, I kept turning the pages.”—Christine Schutt, author of Pure Hollywood
Praise for Eveningland
“The spirit of Eudora Welty broods over these adroitly crafted stories set in and around coastal Alabama, evoking a world coiled tight as a conch shell.”—O Magazine
“Impressive… ‘Water and Oil’ is deft and wonderful, wholly original, and ‘Smash and Grab’ is sharp and fresh with an ending like something out of O. Henry or Thomas McGuane.”—New York Times Book Review
“Novelistic…compressed and supple, with a Cheever-esque sensitivity to texture and light.”—Garden & Gun
Praise for The Typist
“The Typist is reminiscent of The English Patient—slow, sad, wistful and romantic.”—Los Angeles Times
“Knight’s prose transforms even cheap booze and poor weather into lovely atmospheric touches… [His] elegant prose recalls the fiction of W.G. Sebald.”—The Economist
“Elegant… a memorable read.”—Chicago Tribune
“Thrilling… Knight produces a number of stunning set-pieces… [An] elegant, restrained novel.”—The Rumpus
“Do you believe in ghosts, Mr. Bishop?”
She could feel him staring at her, wondering about her. The thing about Mr. Bishop was, he wanted to teach you something. That wasn’t always the case. Some teachers wanted to entertain or impress you, some wanted you to like them, some just wanted you to behave for an hour and move along. But Mr. Bishop believed what he said in class. He was almost too earnest. Even now, he was giving her question more consideration that it deserved.
“I believe a place can be haunted,” he said, “if that’s what you mean. By the past or history or whatever. And people, too. People can be haunted. But if you mean actual spirits from the other side, then no, I don’t guess I do.”
Lenore wiggled her toes inside her shoes.
“Why do you ask?” he said.
“Oh, you know the stories about Thornton Hall.”
Mr. Bishop smiled. “Does this mean you’ve had a run in with Elizabeth Archer?”
“I’m pregnant,” Lenore said.
She hadn’t meant to tell him. She felt as startled by her revelation as Mr. Bishop looked and she had the strange sensation the she might suddenly float up off the ground, her heels lifting out of the snow and then her toes and she imagined gazing down on Mr. Bishop and his dog, a hovering ghost of herself.