Lee Cole’s debut novel, GROUNDSKEEPING, is a coming-of-age story about two lovers trying to navigate social and cultural differences during a time of great upheaval in American politics.
Twenty-eight-year-old Owen returns home to rural Kentucky after a failed launch in Colorado and gets a job as a groundskeeper at a local college in exchange for taking one class free each semester. In a writing workshop, much to his surprise, he discovers that he is a writer. He meets and falls in love with Alma, the daughter of Bosnian immigrants. Alma has recently published a collection of short stories and is a writer-in-residence at the college. Alma has everything Owen does not – a promising career, an Ivy-league education, and an intact family.
Owen is living in his grandfather’s basement, a WWII veteran with a penchant for Western movies. His uncle Cort lives there too after an accident that left him unable to work. Cort has a MAGA sign in his bedroom window and spends most of his time playing video games. Owen’s parents are divorced. They are Republican, evangelical Christian, working-class people who have never gone to college. They love Owen, but they don’t understand him.
Alma’s parents are Muslim, and after fleeing Bosnia for America, they settled in Washington D.C. where they both had successful careers. They live in a tudor, in a tidy neighborhood, with a bookshelf boasting the Great Works of the Western Canon.
GROUNDSKEEPING is about that messy time in young adulthood when you are deciding what to pack up from your old life to bring into your new life. Cole’s writing belies that of a debut novelist. His characters are complicated and nuanced; their relationships are messy and there are no easy answers. Just like in real life.
I recommend GROUNDSKEEPING for fans of coming-of-age stories and character-driven fiction.
This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Listen to my interview with Lee Cole on Superior Reads on March 24 at 7:00 pm and March 26 at 6:00 am CT on WTIP Radio 90.7 Grand Marais or on the web at www.wtip.org.