In 2005 Mary Morris sailed down the Mississippi in a house boat with two river pilots named Tom and Jerry. Her adventures turned into the hilarious and critically-acclaimed travel narrative, THE RIVER QUEEN. In this travel memoir, as in her others, Morris moves between the outer landscape of the Mississippi River and the inner landscape of Morris' sense of loss over the death of her father. Prior to that, Morris published the riveting novel Revenge (PicadorUSA, 2005), a psychologically complex story of female friendship, art and obsession. When a young painter with a tale to tell becomes the neighbor of a world-class novelist with writer's block, they become both muse and menace to one another.
Michael Cunningham has called Revenge "compelling and darkly beautiful". Anita Shreve writes, "I loved it. The writing is superb and the tension Morris creates between Andrea and Lorette keeps the reader anxious...a beautiful example of the thread of literary suspense". Her fifth novel, Acts of God, the story of a girl whose father, an insurance claims adjuster, led a duplicitous life, was published in September 2000 by PicadorUSA.
Born in Chicago in l947, Morris moved East to go to college. Though she never returned to the Middle West, she often writes about the region and its tug. Morris likes the fact that there is more magnetisim around the shores of Lake Michigan than the North Pole. She feels drawn there and feel an affinity for Midwestern writers such as Willa Cather and Mark Twain who wrote their stories of the Middle West from afar. In her first collection of short stories, Vanishing Animals & Other Stories, awarded the Rome Prize in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts & Letters, Morris writes about childhood and adolescent memories. The Chicago Tribune called Morris "a marvelous storyteller-a budding Isaac Bashevis Singer, a young Doris Lessing, a talent to be watched and read".
Morris's stories often deal with the tension between home and away. Travel is an important theme in many of the stories in her three collections, including Vanishing Animals, The Bus of Dreams, and The Lifeguard Stories. It is also a recurrent theme in her trilogy of travel memoirs, including the acclaimed Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone, Wall to Wall: from Beijing to Berlin by Rail, and Angels & Aliens: A Journey West. In her five novels, including The Waiting Room, The Night Sky (formerly published as A Mother's Love) and House Arrest, Morris writes of family, its difficulties and disappointments, its iron grip and necessity, and ultimately the comfort family can bring.
Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, Morris sees herself as a storyteller, weaving tales. A Japanese critic once, referring to her non-fiction, told Morris that she is not really a travel writer; rather she writes stories that take place during journeys.
Her many novels and story collections have been translated into Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Swedish and Japanese. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and daughter and teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College.
- Anita Shreve
"I loved it. The writing is superb, and the tension Morris creates between Andrea and Loretta keeps the reader anxious - a beautiful example of the thread of literary suspense."
- Jodi Picoult
"The River Queen is my new favorite book. I wish I'd been the one to write something so flawless, so honest and so resonant."
My Sister's Keeper