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Karen Osborn Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Patchwork (1991) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Between Earth and Sky (1996) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The River Road (2002) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Centerville (2012) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Karen Osborn is an American author from Chicago Illinois who writes women’s and historical fiction. She was born to Lois and Kenton Osborn in 1954 in Chicago. She got married to assistant athletic director Michael Jenkins in 1983, with whom she had one child Kaitlyn Shannon. She got her Bachelors in Arts in 1979 from Hollins College, and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. She has had a long career as a poet and novelist and has been a professor at the University of Kentucky Lexington, and the Clemson University, of South Carolina. She has given readings for several organizations and schools including the Booksfest, Women Writers Conference, Southern Festival of Books, Augusta Round Table, and Writers Voice. Between 1990 and 1992, she was the program adjunct for the Engineering College and a Technical Writer at Clark Equipment Inc. Over the course of her long career, she has won several honors and awards from different publications and literary organizations. She won the 1991 New York Times Notable Book Award for the novel “Patchwork”, The 1991 Kentucky Arts Council’s Kentucky Foundation for Women Grant, the 1981 McKean Award for Poetry, the 1979 Mary Vincent Long Award, and the 1979 Nancy Thorp Prize for Poetry.

Karen Osborn was born on Grand Island, an idyllic environment where she was surrounded by the beauty of the woods beside the Niagara. She was born in a scientific family where everything was categorized and quantified, which explains why she creates a balance between the creative and science world in her novels. An understanding of the observed world and how it works led her to try to understand human behavior and the human heart. After finishing her schooling, she lived in the Northeast and the Midwest, where she worked as professor at two universities. She has worked at several universities that include Hollins University where she was Writer in Residence for their MFA program, and served as Distinguished Visiting Fiction Writer for the Creative Writing MFA program at Bowling Green University. She currently teaches an MFA program at Clark University and the Fairfield University. Given her upbringing in such a pristine environment, her novels are inspired by raw untouched beauty, which form the setting in many of her works. Nonetheless, even as she seeks untouched beauty, she is drawn to the nature of love and romance, a marriage, family and small towns, which she seeks to understand and explain. She is drawn to teaching in her local New England colleges, as the students are interested and the teaching load manageable. Her children are grown and have left home which leaves her with her husband, who spends four months out of the home, meaning she has all the time to write.

Karen Osborn’s novels are grounded in metaphor, image, and rhythm having started out as a poet. Having lived in practically every part of the United States, she is one of the most multicultural of writers whose books are set in diverse settings. Her novels also take an unusual point of view, and will often involve multiple perspectives from her characters. Her first novel “Patchwork”, which is set in the South, is a rendering of the Southern dialect in writing that is almost poetical. Many Southern novels have been written on the same themes but none has done a better job at depicting the essence of the South than Karen Osborn. “Patchwork” is a poignant, well-crafted, unforgettable, and sensitive story of a mill family in South Carolina. In the second novel, “Between Earth and Sky”, Osborn deals with the familiar theme of the triumphs and trials of a pioneer family. The novel is the story of a remarkable woman determined to make a new life for herself and her family in the hostile New Mexico frontier. Similar to many novels that she writes, the novel tells of the beauty of the land just after the Civil War through beautiful prose in the form of letters. Karen Osborn’s novels are rich in historical detail providing insights into the tragedies and hardships of different settings that her protagonists have to make a life in. They are enchanting, focused, and lyrical novels that are a perfect rendition of life and love.

“Patchwork” is Osborn’s engrossing first novel that combines the joy and hardship of the frontier. Three sisters; June the unstable and sheltered artist; Lily restless, sexy, good time girl, and Rose the spiritual and strong girl take turns narrating their story of life in Ash Hill, South Carolina. June has a daughter named Sylvia who is under the guardianship of Rose as she is too unstable to remember a daughter, let alone raise her. In old age, the sisters have come back home and now live with Rose their elder sister. Lily is a bitter woman following two unsuccessful marriages and June is in her own world where she spends time with her painting and fantasies. Sylvia is a successful travel writer who has come back home to try to make sense of her tempestuous past. Over the course of the novel, she comes to the realization that while her mother and two aunts had shared most of what had happened to them having been living together, they had reacted to the happenings in different ways. In some way they had lived together yet all along, they were apart.

“Between Earth and Sky” is a delightful novel about a Post-Civil War era family that is heading to New Mexico. Abigail Conklin who is the matriarch of the family writes a letter to Maggie her sister telling of their journey west. She writes letters detailing the courage of the family over six decades in the frontier, showing the tragedies, disappointments, challenges, and hopes that dogged the family in their new home. She paints a picture of the dangers from primitive tribes, the anxiety, and unrelenting exhaustion from labor that the family has to confront on an almost daily basis. Over the years, Abigail experiences physical and emotional estrangement with her children, has a brush with romance, and almost loses her husband. Despite all her troubles, she always manages to make good any situation and celebrates historical milestones like clockwork, to make something of herself in her new home of New Mexico.

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