Festival Favorites

Each month leading up to the Festival, we'll showcase one book by an author who is scheduled to participate. Our goal with these "Festival Favorites" is to shine light on some good books that perhaps aren't (yet) on your bookshelves.

March Festival Favorite
Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer


In 1948 Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, two young writers on the rise, met at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. The larger-than-life New England poet was intrigued by the uncompromising Catholicism, wit, and talent of the Southern fiction writer. They became friends and wrote letters to each other in which there is an occasional hint of an interest beyond friendship. In her first novel, Carlene Bauer imagines how things might have gone if that interest had bloomed into romance. Frances Reardon, based loosely on O’Connor, is a “Northeastern hillbilly from Philadelphia,” while Bernard Eliot, more closely modeled on Lowell, is a well-born WASP who briefly converts to Catholicism. Bauer tells this story of love, faith, and the loss of faith in the form of letters exchanged over eleven years between these two characters of radically different natures. Frances, with her disarming, down-to-earth spirituality, becomes both muse and spiritual advisor to Bernard, who offers her a sort of frenzied adoration. Austere and committed to live as an unmarried writer, Frances is, nonetheless, stirred. Bauer captures the style and the language of the period in these letters, which reveal two people engaged, in very different ways, in the determined pursuit to ask the big questions and to live as Christians.


Read an excerpt from Frances and Bernard.

Links of Interest

Read an interview with Carlene Bauer.

Listen to Bauer talk about faith and writing.

Read a blog post by Bauer in which she talks about moving from memoirist to novelist.

Visit a week in the life of Bauer.


Fiction Writers Review

New York Times



Past Festival Favorites

February: Dangerous Goods by Sean Hill

January: The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

December: Driftless by David Rhodes

November: The Seed Underground by Janisse Ray

October: The Tenth Parallel by Eliza Griswold

September: What Happened to Sophie Wilder by Christopher Beha

Calvin College