The Writer’s Center presents a FREE virtual chat about the craft of fiction! We’re joined by Erin Kate Ryan to discuss her debut novel, Quantum Girl Theory. Erin Kate will be in conversation with Amy Freeman, author and Development Director at The Writer’s Center.
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Erin Kate Ryan‘s debut novel, Quantum Girl Theory, is based on the real-life disappearance of Paula Jean Welden from Bennington College in 1946. Erin Kate’s short fiction has appeared in VQR, The Normal School, Conjunctions, Glimmer Train, among other places. She’s a McKnight Artist Fellow, a James Jones First Novel Fellow, a Pushcart nominee, and the recipient of grants and scholarships from institutions such as the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, and Vermont Studio Center. She holds a JD from Boston University and an MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars, where she was an Alumni Fellow in Fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her partner and found family.
About the Book
On December 1, 1946, Paula Jean Welden put on a bright red parka and disappeared from her dorm at Bennington College in Vermont. Eighteen, white, blonde, wealthy; she was never found.
Each chapter of QUANTUM GIRL THEORY imagines a life Paula Jean Welden may have lived after she left that room: in love with a woman in a Communist cell and running from her blackmailer in 1950s New York. A literary forger on the verge of discovery at the advent of the computer age. A disgraced showgirl returning home to her mother’s deathbed. Is she a lobotomy victim, is she faking amnesia, is she already buried in the nearby woods?
Or is she Mary Garrett, the hard-edged clairvoyant hustling for reward money by searching for missing girls in the Jim Crow south? A trip to Elizabethtown, North Carolina, leads Mary to a twisty case that no one, not even the missing girl’s mother, wants her to solve. There, Mary stumbles into an even bigger mystery: two other missing girls, both Black, whose disappearances are studiously ignored by the overbearing sheriff. Mary’s got no one else to trust, and as her own past tangles with the present, it’s unclear whether she can even trust herself.
“Inventive….Ryan’s novel takes up what true-crime aficionados would call the “less dead”: victims of violence or missing people from marginalized communities who fail to garner the same attention as idealized victims—namely, straight White young women. Ryan takes a meta approach here; the novel is as much about the way we mythologize this type of missing and murdered victim as it is a twisty mystery….A puzzler that is both brainy and full of satisfying narrative brawn.” —Kirkus