December 6, 2023 347 PM
MARFA — Marfa resident Gretel Enck is launching the publication of her new book with a reading this Saturday, December 9, at 11 a.m. at Bitter Sugar Café.
The Encyclopӕdia of Useless Things is a 300-page work of fiction for middle grade readers that blends magic and mystery into the everyday life of a small, dusty town in Far West Texas.
The book offers classic themes of courage, friendship, and determination — with a decidedly West Texas sensibility. Thirty-five years after shepherds hear ghostly voices while tending their flocks in a mountain meadow, a girl most everyone mistakes for ordinary learns the truth about those wayward spirits that gave everyone such a fright. Veronica Curtiss is 11 years old and wasting away in Little Pine, Texas, population 537, not including goats, chickens, and horses, and a pair of jewelry-stealing, talking ravens. Fortunately, she has her best friends Rita and Johanna. Unfortunately, Rita’s little brother, Ramón, disappears one day. The local sheriff doesn’t take it seriously — he has a string of robberies to solve. It’s up to the girls to connect the dots, unravel the mystery, and summon the courage to make a daring rescue.
Reader’s Favorite Review says, “This is a seriously good book filled with magic, myth and a gifted child’s discovery of her identity and talents … Enck’s tale is beautifully told, and her characters are multifaceted and seem fairly ready to leap off the page as you read.” Kirkus Reviews calls the book “a layered and emotionally ambitious fantasy.”
Enck has published short stories in various literary journals. This is her first novel. She chose to write a story for young people to pay tribute to the courage necessary for all the changes teens and preteens face. “Middle grade fiction is very much like the young adult genre but without romantic entanglements. Hard experiences and complicated interpersonal dynamics are appropriate topics; I wanted to create a story that respects the reader’s intelligence and honors their place in the world. At the same time, I wanted readers to have fun diving into this world and spending time with these characters,” Enck said.
Enck’s book launch event will include the author reading excerpts of The Encyclopӕdia of Useless Things, time for questions, and the opportunity to buy a book and get it signed. Bitter Sugar Café will offer its usual menu of coffees and baked goods for sale. Readers of all ages are invited.