When Juniper Kowalski gets a scholarship to art school in Chicago, she leaves her dead-end small town of Gobles, Mich. in the dust. But fast-forward four years and she’s right back where she started, working as a maid at the local hotel and living in her late grandmother’s trailer.

In Twine (Crowsnest Books) by Monica Duncan, Juniper rallies against what seems to be her natural place in the line of Kowalski women, inheriting a tradition of stifling, low-skill jobs and bad luck with men. Now she’ll have to find a way out or decide that she’s belonged there all along.

In her debut, Duncan skillfully weaves Juniper’s remarkably bleak outlook on her hometown with splashes of vivid sensory details. Moments of hope make both her main character and her readers feel truly alive. The reoccurring focus on art, both through Juniper’s paintings and the beauty of world at large, grounds the story. The reader holds onto this thread as Juniper’s life unfolds. Short chapters and plenty of domestic action keep up the pace of the novel, making it an easy read despite its often weighty subject matter.

Juniper has always seen herself as an artist, but she’s missing the confidence she needs to make that dream take flight. She’s never seen herself as a mother, but now she’s pregnant by a married man. Will this pregnancy be just another item in the growing list of things that have gone wrong in Juniper’s life? Or will motherhood give her the confidence she’s been lacking?

Suddenly, there is a little girl depending on her. Juniper never knew a bond could be that strong. Now she sees inspiration everywhere. She has something important to say with her art again. Maybe, for once, Gobles is just the place to make that statement.

Single motherhood seems to fortify Juniper in ever-emboldening ways, but will the armor she builds up be too thick to let love in? If Kowalski family history is any indication, men tend to either run away at the first sign of trouble or stick around only to inflict physical and emotional pain. Could Juniper really have found someone different?

Twine explores the meaning of motherhood, fatherhood, art and human purpose as Juniper’s life changes. Duncan’s debut is one the reader will want to watch unfurl until the final page.

Twine is now available.

About Monica Duncan:

MONICA DUNCAN is a writer of literary fiction, a musician, wife, and mother. Originally from Michigan, she finds herself continually drawn to the hidden richness of the places she comes from. She now lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Monica holds music degrees from Michigan State and Indiana University, and is active as a freelance musician and teacher in the Greater Boston area.

She’s pretty sure she’ll always be in love with the soundtrack from O Brother, Where Art Thou? Her favorite skill as a writer she learned from her life in music: be a good listener.

Find out more on her website: https://www.monicafayduncan.com/