The Prettiest Star
Fiction

The Prettiest Star

by: Carter Sickels
Release date: Apr 14th, 2020

Small-town Appalachia doesn't have a lot going for it, but it’s where Brian is from, where his family is, and where he’s chosen to return to die. Read More

Hardcover - $27.00
(ISBN: 978-1-938235-62-7)

Small-town Appalachia doesn't have a lot going for it, but it’s where Brian is from, where his family is, and where he’s chosen to return to die.

Set in 1986, a year after Rock Hudson’s death brought the news of AIDS into living rooms and kitchens across America, Lambda Literary award-winning author Carter Sickels’s second novel shines light on an overlooked part of the epidemic, those men who returned to the rural communities and families who’d rejected them.

Six short years after Brian Jackson moved to New York City in search of freedom and acceptance, AIDS has claimed his lover, his friends, and his future. With nothing left in New York but memories of death, Brian decides to write his mother a letter asking to come back to the place, and family, he was once so desperate to escape.

The Prettiest Star is told in a chorus of voices: Brian’s mother Sharon; his fourteen-year-old sister, Jess, as she grapples with her brother’s mysterious return; and the video diaries Brian makes to document his final summer.

Part Dog Years by Mark Doty and part Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, The Prettiest Star is an urgent story about the politics and fragility of the body, of sex and shame. Above all, Carter Sickels’s stunning novel explores the bounds of family and redemption. It is written at the far reaches of love and understanding, centering on the moments where those two forces stretch toward each other and sometimes touch.

Praise for The Prettiest Star

"From its opening sentences Carter Sickels’ The Prettiest Star makes it clear that too many queer narratives have been kept out of sight. Here a man returns to the town of his southern Ohio childhood at a point when his own day-to-day survival is at stake. Love doesn’t come in to save him, or the family and friends upended by his presence. “Nothing transforms, there is no magic,” says one character, and while there’s darkness in those words, their down to earth candor does a lot to suggest why this novel feels so touching, affecting, rebellious, and real."—Paul Lisicky, author of Later

"Get ready for your heart to explode into an entire cosmos. Carter Sickels' The Prettiest Star is the story of a young man who must drag his body from the mouth of death back to the "home" that nearly killed him. The story of a queer desiring body moving through the crucibles of life toward song, toward rewriting family and whatever we mean by home, toward a kind of hope that comes from the dirt up and not the sky down. A heart triumph." —Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan

"The Prettiest Star is a lyrical and compulsively readable novel about the intricate, tangled bonds of family and the way human beings can be both profoundly cruel and surprisingly wonderful. These characters are people we know, and they'll stay with me for a very long time. This deeply moving novel is much more than the story of one family dealing with the worst tragedy of their lives in a small Ohio town in 1986. It's the story of all of us--the story of America, then and now, how far we've come, and how far we still have to go." —Silas House, author of Southernmost

"With the most inviting prose imaginable, Carter Sickels has written a beautiful, heartstring-tugging story about a young man searching for peace, and the family that loves him through thick and thin. The Prettiest Star is a novel I'll never forget." —De'Shawn Charles Winslow, author of In West Mills
Carter Sickels
Author

Carter Sickels

Carter Sickels is the author of the novel The Evening Hour. He is the recipient of the 2013 Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award, and has been awarded scholarships to Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, VCCA, and the MacDowell Colony. His essays and fiction have appeared in various publications, including Guernica, Bellevue Literary Review, and BuzzFeed, and he is the editor of Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships & Identity. Carter is Assistant Professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University, where he teaches in the Bluegrass Writers Studio Low-Residency MFA program.

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