On Sept. 29, acclaimed author Suzanne Matson will conduct a reading at Fire Hall No. 2 on Prince Avenue to promote her latest novel, “Ultraviolet.” The event will take place at 6 p.m. and is jointly being promoted by the Willson Center and Avid Bookshop.
“Ultraviolet” chronicles the lives of a family through three different generations of women. Each woman has her struggles and they cope with unhappiness in life and marriage. The novel explores the nuances and complexities of familial relationships, love and marriage.
The novel was inspired by Matson’s own family history. Like the family in the story, Matson’s maternal family were Mennonite missionaries in India who eventually moved back to the United States. And Matson’s mother, like the mother in the book, eventually married a much older Finnish man. Through photographs, documented events, trips to India and family oral history, she constructed this fictionalized account of her family story.
“I got to know a side of my mother she never relayed to me directly through my research. These people were real, yet I had to research them to bring them fully to life,” Matson said.
Matson believes her paternal side of the family provided equally rich material for her novel. Her father came from a large Finnish family of coal miners in Montana. Growing up, she heard Finnish spoken at family gatherings and witnessed the practice of Finnish customs. Matson believes this gave her a greater depth of understanding to the 20th century, American immigrant experience. However, she understood from an early age that her parents were different people.
“My parents had an unhappy marriage and I feel like I became a writer because of the puzzlement at what drew these two very different people together from very different worlds. I think it instilled in me as a child a habit of trying to see inside people, see their motives and understand the decisions they made,” she said.
Nicholas Allen, the director of the Willson Center and an English professor at the University of Georgia believes the reading coincides with the Willson Center’s mission to promote the arts and humanities and create a bridge between UGA and the Athens community. Allen, a friend of Matson’s and a fan of her writing, explained how he believes she contributes the contemporary literature genre and discussed the relevance of her debut novel, “The Hunger Moon.”
“She’s a great writer of character and writing about the different challenges that … characters face throughout their lives. Such is the book ‘The Hunger Moon,’” Allen said. “It’s a great novel about the strange things people sometimes do. It asks questions of right and wrong. [Her novels] are beautifully written.”