Writing a novel inspired by American writers with rather well known histories is a risky leap that I fully applaud Carlene Bauer taking in Frances and Bernard. However, I think it is wise that she has been making it clear in interviews that Frances and Bernard are not meant to represent Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell, rather the story was set off by their history.
If I was being honest about how much I love some of the incredible passages in this novel, more than half of it would have been highlighted by the time I was finished. Frances' voice is so sharp and modern, but written with wit you rarely find today. As much as I adore Flannery O'Connor's writing, I feel like I would much more enjoy the company of Frances Reardon.
Though I know it aligns closely with Flannery O'Connor's background, I struggled a bit with the constant theme of Catholicism, particularly in the middle of the book. As Frances and Bernard's relationship and religious discussions changed through the course of the novel, it felt less alienating.
Regardless of where a reader's opinion may fall on O'Connor and Lowell, epistolary style novels or Catholicism, this is a beautiful novel with really gorgeous writing that is definitely worth reading.
*I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley