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'Steel Magnolias' Meets Upstate New York in 'Black Chokeberry'

(April 24, 2012)

NASHVILLE, TN -- (Marketwire) -- 04/24/12 -- In 65-year-old Martha Nelson's debut novel, "Black Chokeberry," (, a chain-reaction of small disasters turns three women into unlikely allies as they face their lives.

The women -- two 50-somethings and one a young 72 -- live independently in small town Oswego, N.Y., each nursing her own emotional wounds. The main character, Ellen, 52, has returned to the town where she grew up following the end of her 24-year marriage. A sophisticated chef left with no appetite except for Milky Ways and Snickers bars, she nonetheless narrates her tale with levity and wry observations.

Ruby, a seemingly happy 50-ish spinster, wraps her parents' Victorian home around her like a womb. Suffering from anxiety-triggered illnesses as a child, Ruby views the world through the small openings in her late mother's heavy parlor drapes, a Swiss Army knife always within reach.

And, finally, there's Frances, a tender Tennessee transplant who finds herself widowed after a long marriage, her southern charm a gift to those around her. With no tangible regrets, she finds herself in the last chapter of her life in a northern climate and culture that was never really hers. But she had made her Daddy proud.

"All three women are intriguing, a product of parental imprinting and life shifts," says Nelson, a former journalist, nonprofit executive, educator, and chef. "They are survivors."

In turns humorous, dramatic and poignant, "Chokeberry" explores the lasting effects of childhood traumas, religious training, the palliative effect of good food, and the changes in perspective that come with age.

"I can only write about what I know. These women are compilations of people I've known and loved," she says. "I was born and raised in Oswego, and I live in Nashville and both places are full of character. I know what it's like to experience divorce after a long marriage, and I know what it is to be healthy, active and 65 -- far from ready to give up on anything. And most of all, I know the impact of truly great food."

About Martha Nelson

Martha Nelson is an award-winning former investigative reporter, columnist and editor at two New York newspapers. She retired a year ago and settled in to write "Black Chokeberry," a coming-of-age novel about three women confronting crisis and change on the other side of 50.

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