Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Authors Pick Five: Claire Avery

As is my custom and routine now, I've asked the author of Hidden Wives (recently reviewed here) to answer the question: What five books are most important and influential to you?

Since the author of this book, Claire Avery, is actually a pen name for a sister duo, they've both submitted their lists! Here they are:

Five Most Influential Books for Mari Hilburn (Pen name, Claire Avery)

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendack- As a child, that simple picture book ignited and liberated my imagination. Let the wild rumpus begin!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- As an adolescent, I was fascinated with Lee’s exploration of good and evil. Atticus Finch, a lawyer defending an innocent man from rape, never loses his belief in the capacity for human goodness, even with evil and depravity all around him. His children loIt’s such a powerful thing to believe in goodness and to reject cynicism in favor of cautious optimism. It has affected how I move through life and relate to the people in it. Also, the profound way the author presented a story dealing with racial inequality and injustice, introduced me to the idea of using fiction as a vehicle for social change.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl- The author was a concentration camp survivor. He proposed the notion that life has meaning in every circumstance, even amidst profound suffering. When I read it as an angst-ridden teenager, it pulled me out of my moodiness and provided a gauge by which I measured all my “problems” from that moment on. I tried to weave gratitude into my worldview. Not always an easy thing, but I’ve come back countless times to reflect on the book and its message of the indomitability of the human spirit.

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley- The basic plot of this story seems simple enough: An Iowa farmer decides to divide his farm between his three daughters. When one daughter objects, it sets in motion a chain of events leading to tragedy. It’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear, and Smiley is a worthy imitator. The story is brilliantly layered in moral complexity and insight into human nature. The tension is excruciating as it builds to a shocking, yet inevitable, conclusion.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch- It’s the story of a young girl growing up in the foster care system, always haunted by her sociopathic mother’s manipulation. It’s a perfect literary marriage of lyrical, glorious prose, a riveting plot and an incredibly sympathetic protagonist. I lost sleep over this poor girl! I could not put the book down, praying, with every page, that she would be okay.

Five Most Influential Books for Michelle Hilburn (Pen name, Claire Avery)

Lord of the Rings by J. R. Tolkein- Hobbits, dwarves, elves, dragons in Middle Earth. High fantasy at its finest. It was a literary feast for a future fiction writer.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant- The Red Tent retells the story of Dinah, a woman mentioned in the book of Genesis, who never utters a word in the bible, but finds her voice in the novel.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver tells the story of a missionary family in the Congo in the 1950’s. Learning about African history was absolutely fascinating, and the characters were fully realized. I was so impressed with Kingsolver’s ability to weave history into this fictional family’s life so seamlessly.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a masterpiece of Gothic literature, filled with mystery, suspense and a dark, brooding atmosphere. But it also has psychological depth and insight. What more could you want?

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck is a novel set right before the 1949 revolution in China. Not only did I learn about Chinese culture, but it was the first book I read which dealt with oppression of women in other societies. It whetted my appetite for books about exotic, foreign countries, the people, their customs and their treatment.  

Claire Avery is the pen name of a sister writing team comprised of Mari Hilburn and Michelle Hilburn. Hidden Wives is their first novel. You can learn more about them at their official website, here on their blog, or follow them on Twitter.

Thanks so much for participating in Authors Pick Five! I love both of your lists! Wonderful books!


  1. I have enjoyed reading interviews etc from these sisters.

    I really should read White Oleander.

  2. The Red Tent and Rebecca are definitely both worthy of making the list!



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