I have been a fan of Lee Smith's work for years, so I was excited to see that she had a new book out. Guests on Earth, is a historical fiction novel, based on Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. The hospital was notable for a couple of things...one: it is where Zelda Fitzgerald was often treated, and two: it appeared to be known for its innovative methods of treatment for the mentally ill, including gardening, arts, exercise and diet. Very new concepts back in 1936. In 1948, the hospital caught fire and nine patients in a locked ward were killed, including Zelda. It is still unknown what caused the fire.
The story centers around Evalina Touissant, a thirteen year old girl from New Orleans, who was orphaned when her mother died. She was sent to the Highland Hospital shortly after the death of her mother in 1936 and was a patient there off and on over the next twelve years. Through Evalina, the reader is introduced to various patients there, including Zelda Fitzgerald.
I just wasn't taken with the whole story. The concept of it sounded fascinating, but in reading it, I really never cared about any of the characters. Perhaps if the book had been written by someone else, I would have found it more interesting. My expectations of Ms. Smith are high, however, and this book didn't deliver.