By Meredith Guinness
Deborah Henry spent two years crafting her first novel in Fairfield University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and all her hard work has paid off: The Whipping Club (T.S. Poetry, March 2012) has been named one of Oprah Winfrey’s must-reads for summer in O Magazine.
Set in mid-20th-century Ireland, the novel centers on a “good Catholic girl” who decides to give up her half-Jewish child for adoption. “Secrecy, lifelong guilt, and remorse aren’t even half of what she and the child will suffer in Deborah Henry’s novel,” according to the recommendation in “O‘s 2012 Summer Reading List,” which includes 33 books.
Henry, a Fairfield resident who received her MFA in July 2011, said “this particular recognition from Oprah Magazine, Oprah.com and the O – Oprah app for iPad is really exciting for me because I am a huge admirer of Oprah Winfrey. Her appreciation of art and how books in particular can make a difference in the world resonates with me. The Whipping Club is a historical novel but the major issues are still relevant today. Eight years of writing and rewriting, this accolade from Oprah brings huge joy.”
The O pick is just one of the many accolades Henry received for The Whipping Club. She has received strong reviews from top trade magazines and newspapers including Publishers Weekly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Herald de Paris and notably, a starred Kirkus Review that calls The Whipping Club “a powerful saga of love and survival.” Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler calls Henry “a natural storyteller who deserves a wide audience. Her novel The Whipping Club is a compelling read, but it also seriously explores the terrible ways the world – as a society, as individuals – often fails its children,” he said. “And most importantly, her book offers a searingly lovely vision of how wrongs can be made right.”
She’s likely to find that wide audience now that she’s been recognized by Winfrey’s organization. A recommendation from the popular former talk show host, who now has her own television network, often sends books to the top of the bestseller list.
“Deb Henry’s novel, The Whipping Club, is an enormously compelling and readable story,” said Michael White, Ph.D., director of Fairfield’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. “It was a joy to see her and her novel develop in our MFA program. We are all very proud of her and her success, and look forward to many more books from her.”
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