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Varley O’Connor, "The Welsh Fasting Girl"

Big Blue Marble welcomes novelist Varley O’Connor in celebration of her 5th novel. The Welsh Fasting Girl is the story of nineteenth-century American woman journalist who becomes deeply invested in the tragic case of a young Welsh girl deemed a miracle. .

Varley O’Connor’s beautiful and brilliant novel takes us deep into the mysteries of virtue’s conspiracy with evil and the human spirit’s war against itself. With spot-on historical detail and scintillating language, the novel fascinates and moves us, and uses the story of a nineteenth-century Welsh farm girl to deliver cogent insights into contemporary issues regarding gender and family.” ―Stephen O’Connor, author of Orphan Trains and Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings

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Varley O’Connor is the author of four previous novels, most recently The Master’s Muse (Scribner 2012). Her shorter prose has appeared in The Missouri Review, The Sun, Santa Monica Review, The MacGuffin, Writer’s Chronicle, Publisher’s Weekly, and elsewhere. Since 2007 she has taught fiction and creative nonfiction at Kent State University and for the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts Program. In 2015 she was Visiting Writer at the University of California, Irvine, and has also taught at Squaw Valley Community of Writer’s Summer Conference, Hofstra University, Brooklyn College, and Marymount Manhattan College.

Twelve-year-old Sarah Jacob was the most famous of the Victorian fasting girls, who claimed to miraculously survive without food, serving as flashpoints between struggling religious, scientific, and political factions. In this novel based on Sarah’s life and premature death, an American journalist, recovering from her husband’s death in the Civil War, leaves her home and children behind to travel to Wales, where she investigates Sarah’s bizarre case by becoming the young girl’s friend and confidante.

Unable to prevent the girl’s tragic decline while doctors, nurses, and a local priest keep watch, she documents the curious family dynamic, the trial that convicted Sarah’s parents, and an era’s need to both believe and destroy Sarah’s seemingly miraculous power.