by Justin Kramon
on Tour October 1 - November 30, 2013
Genre: Thriller / Psychological Thriller / Women's Fiction
Published by: Pegasus/Norton
Publication Date: 10/15/13
Number of Pages: 288
** Note: Explicit sexual scenes
To Sam Blount, meeting Julia is the best thing that has ever happened to him. Working at the local college and unsuccessful in his previous relationships, he’d been feeling troubled about his approaching fortieth birthday, “a great beast of a birthday,” as he sees it, but being with Julia makes him feel young and hopeful. Julia Stilwell, a freshman trying to come to terms with a recent tragedy that has stripped her of her greatest talent, is flattered by Sam’s attention. But their relationship is tested by a shy young man with a secret, Marcus Broley, who is also infatuated with Julia.
Told in alternating points of view, The Preservationist is the riveting tale of Julia and Sam’s relationship, which begins to unravel as the threat of violence approaches—and Julia becomes less and less sure whom to trust.
Read an excerpt:
Of all the places Julia Stilwell thought she might be on a September afternoon, less than a year after the accident, this was the last she would have imagined. College. A freshman headed out on a first date. It was too normal. She felt like she’d snuck into the wrong movie, like any minute a guy in a little hat would come running up the aisle, shine a flashlight in her eyes, and ask to see her ticket.
But here she was, ten minutes to two, fixing her hair, getting her shoes on, smiling at her reflection so she could paint blush on her cheeks, going back and forth in her mind about whether to bring a backpack or a purse. It was all the usual stuff girls do before dates, but to Julia it felt like a test, a set of pictures she had to line up in the right order. Wrong answer sends you back to go. It was a blessing her roommate Leanette was in class and not around to witness the chaos of these final preparations. Leanette had dates every weekend and went to all the parties, and Julia was sure this fussing would have seemed amateur to her, like a kid playing with an adult’s makeup kit.
In the end, she decided on a messenger bag. She slung it over her shoulder, flipped the lights off, and left the room.
Outside, it was gorgeous. Cloudless and warm, the air felt like a shirt just out of the dryer. Julia lived in an off-campus dorm, and though the building was musty, with cinder block walls and a dull gray carpet that gave off a smell like boiled milk, there was a pretty courtyard out here, a cement bench, a trellis wrapped with vines and bright flowers. She took a long breath, enjoying the weather and her anticipation, perched for a moment on the fragile edge of happiness.
Julia was headed to campus, and she decided to take the path through the woods. She could have gone through town, but didn’t know whom she’d run into, and whether they’d ask what she was up to. The date with Marcus didn’t have to be a secret, but for some reason she wanted to keep it to herself, like a note in her pocket.
Before the accident, it would have been different. Julia would have had to tell Danny and Shana about how Marcus had asked her out, making little jokes to play it down. They wouldn’t have let her get away with the secrecy. In high school, when she wasn’t practicing the trumpet, Julia had spent most of her free time with these friends. She knew everything about them, from what they’d gotten on their last history tests to what their boyfriends had whispered in their ears the first times they’d had sex.
Julia had always been a bit of an oddball, with her quirky sense of humor, the flat way she delivered jokes that caught people off guard and sometimes made them smile, sometimes give her confused looks. She was never a star in the classroom, and didn’t go in for all the primping and social striving most of the girls did. She didn’t need it; her music and her plans for the future had been enough. They’d given her distance, kept her insulated from the storms of teenage social life. When her friends were worked up over a boy or a conflict with parents, Julia was always the first to jump in with a silly line to relieve the tension. She wore thrift store T-shirts and frayed corduroys and didn’t try to be the prettiest or the smartest or the most popular, just didn’t care that much about it.
But all of that was gone, that old life. She didn’t talk to any of those people anymore. She’d gotten rid of her cell phone, tossed it into a lake, actually. Burial at sea.
Marcus had suggested they meet at two-thirty, since the snack bar would be less crowded then, between lunch and dinner. As usual, Julia was early. She couldn’t help it. She’d always been the type to arrive ten minutes before a meeting, and none of the tricks she pulled to delay herself ever seemed to work. If she were ever sentenced to execution, she’d probably arrive ten minutes early for that, just to get a good seat.
She tried to slow down, scraping her shoe soles on the dirt and rocks in the woods.
As a way to distract herself, she started thinking about how the date had come about. “You have this way about you,” Marcus had said that night in the library, when they were working on the counterpoint project. “It’s like you live in your own self-contained world. I’ve been wanting to know what’s going on in there since the first time I saw you.” After he said it, he smiled in a teasing way, and she wasn’t sure if he was being genuine. She almost made a quick joke back, her habit. Nothing going on in here. My world’s in a budget crisis. But then she noticed he was blushing, all the way from his ears down to the base of his neck. There was something reassuring about his discomfort. Seeing it, she’d felt a protective tenderness for him, the way you might watching a child pedal a bike up a steep hill.
“You want to get lunch on Thursday in the snack bar?” he’d said after that, so casually anyone listening would have thought he’d just tossed out the offer, not even caring what her answer would be. But he’d given a specific day. He’d mentioned the snack bar, as if an off-campus date would have been too much to ask.
“I’d love to,” Julia had said. “But are you going to be there?”
And Marcus had smiled.
When she got near the top of the hill, where the woods let out, Julia heard a train clacking away from the station at the base of campus. She checked her watch: ten minutes early. Of course. She walked onto the train platform, into the warm bright sunshine.
That was when it happened, suddenly, in the midst of all that sparkling weather. It was as if someone had pulled the plug on the day, and all the excitement just drained out, like water from a tub.
She knew what it was, this feeling. She’d told El Doctor about it, these aftershocks, as she thought of them, reminders of events she couldn’t change, events she would have preferred to snip out of the cloth of her memory. She closed her eyes, and there it was again, her brother’s face, pale with shock at what he was witnessing, his lips opening and closing, making no sound, until finally he’d asked, “Is that mine?”
But she couldn’t do this now, couldn’t let herself get dragged under. If you want to move forward, you have to stop looking back. Positive thinking, positive results. She stood straight, pushed her shoulders back, breathed, fixed the strap of the messenger bag like a seatbelt across her chest, and continued across the tracks, up the tree-lined path to campus.
Inside the snack bar, Julia couldn’t spot Marcus. She looked around at all the tables and booths. Most were empty. At one table, two women in suits were smiling over something one of them had said, then they got up to leave, carrying stacks of paper. Inside a booth, three muscular-looking boys sat talking over empty plates and balled napkins.
They made Julia nervous, these people. The way they moved and talked and smiled seemed foreign, like they were all doing a dance she’d never learned. The thought surfaced again that maybe she wasn’t fit to be here, at a college, so soon, no matter what El Doctor said.
But it’s best not to overthink things. That’s how you get yourself into trouble. When you stop and think about how vulnerable you are, or how strange the world is, it’s easy to end up feeling confused and lonely.
In the corner, next to the doors where people walked in to order their sandwiches, a man in a red shirt and white apron was standing beside a trashcan. Julia recognized him as the guy who usually made her sandwiches. She remembered thinking more than once that he was cute. He had shaggy brown hair, and could have passed for a student if he were a couple years younger. He always smiled when he saw Julia, and offered her an extra handful of chips or a second spear of pickle with her order. She didn’t know if he did that for other girls, but it was such a simple and plainly sweet gesture that it charmed her. A pickle for your thoughts, my dear.
When she looked at him, though, smiling, ready to wave, he looked down, like he was embarrassed. She wasn’t sure if maybe he didn't recognize her, or was surprised at meeting her without the lunch counter between them, or if he was just socially awkward, but whatever it was, she felt disappointed. She wanted to give him a signal that it was okay to be friendly, wave to her when she came in. I won’t bite.
She didn’t have a chance to do anything, though, because just as she was considering it, Marcus walked in.
From My Perspective:
I'm rating this psychological thriller a 5 Wink Read!!
Yes, I lost a perfectly good night's sleep in my quest to read The Preservationist.
This was the surprise read of my year. I was expecting this to be a love story between archaeologists. Who else "preserves" things? I must be narrow minded, thinking like that, huh? There are different types of preservationists and I well know that now!
Words I can describe this read with include captivating, dark, haunting and sad. The Preservationist
is a very well written book. The characters are very well developed and believable. Written in differing voices with each chapter, the book "preserved" revelation of who could be trusted until late into the book.
For those who enjoy a good psychological thriller, this book is a must read. And for those who follow my blog, the author is providing a free e-copy of The Preservationist to one lucky winner. Just enter the rafflecopter drawing below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Justin Kramon is the author of the novels Finny (Random House, 2010) and The Preservationist (Pegasus, 2013). A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he has received honors from the Michener-Copernicus Society of America, Best American Short Stories, the Hawthornden International Writers' Fellowship, and the Bogliasco Foundation. He lives in Philadelphia.
Catch Up With the Author:
When did you know you
were born to write?
I'm still not sure
if I was born to write. But I was probably most convinced of that
when I got voted worst dancer in my high school class.
Who influenced you in
becoming the author you are today?
There isn't any one
person, but the first person who took me seriously as a writer was a
teacher I had named Maxine Rodburg who taught a summer writing course
I was taking during the day while working overnight shifts at a
homeless shelter. It was a delirious, sleep-deprived summer, but I
came away with the feeling that it was a real thing I was trying to
do, and I still remember and follow certain pointers she gave me
What was your favorite
book and author as a child?
I didn't read very
much until high school, but I remember that some of the first writers
I connected with were JD Salinger, John Steinbeck, and James Baldwin.
The author who made me really fall in love with what books could do
was Alice Munro.
Who do you read now?
I still read and
marvel at Alice Munro's work. In thrillers, I read Stephen King,
Henning Menkell, Ruth Rendell, Patricia Highsmith, Thomas Harris. I
also love big nineteenth-century British novels: Dickens, Eliot,
Do you read as much as
Page-wise, I read a
lot more. Time-wise, I had to write a lot in the year I was
finishing this book, probably more than I read. I feel like reading
is critical to writing, at least for me. When I'm running low on
fuel for writing, reading is generally the best source.
If you could meet any
author of past or present, who would it be?
Hard question. I've
been fortunate to meet a lot of writers, and my experience has been
that many authors are different in person than in their books, or at
least different in public settings and with people they don't know
very well. That's very understandable to me. My sense is that many
fiction writers have some desire to mask or distort themselves, to
complicate or simplify, or in some cases are just more interested in
other people. In some ways, I feel like I get the purest version of
an author in her/his work. But Charles Dickens would probably be an
interesting person to have a drink with.
What would you ask him?
Whether writing made
What made you select
I wrote a
psychological thriller because I'd been reading a lot of them for
about a year. Stephen King's novel Misery was
the one that got me going on that kick. I picked it up while I was
touring for my first book, and I had some things going on in my life
that were making it difficult to enjoy novels as much as I wanted to,
but I was able to totally let myself go into that book. It reignited
a fire that had been smoldering for a while.
How did you conceive
the idea for The Preservationist?
I wanted to write a
book that got inside the minds of people who were involved in or
threatened by violence. I looked to a lot of books I love that deal
with similar subjects, such as John Fowles's The Collector,
William Trevor's Felicia's Journey, Edna
O'Brien's In The Forest, and Patricia
Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley.
What advice would you
share with a would be writer?
I don't feel like
there's only one way to do this, but I can share a couple things that
have been helpful for me. Like I mentioned before, reading was and
is huge for me. It's been the way that I've been introduced to the
landscape of fiction. My experience has been that a lot of people
who write seriously wrestle with a lot of doubt and even self-hatred,
so I think it's helpful to find ways to deal with that or work with
that. Regular writing practice has been useful for me. Also, being
honest about the books and subjects that interest me, and those that
Do you write with
background noise or silence?
I tend to like
Describe your writing
My office is a spare
bedroom in our house in Philadelphia. I believe the previous owner
used it as a nursery, so now the room is home to somewhat less
spitting up but probably a similar amount of crying. No comment on
Who is the first person
you share the written word with?
Can you tell us a
little about your current WIP?
It's pretty early
on, so I don't have a huge amount to say, but there's suspense in it.
Now for fun:
Salty or sweet?
Cookies, pie or cake?
If the cookies are
in the pie, does that count as two things?
Happy endings, surprise
endings, or cliffhangers?
Really depends on
the book, but I like an ending with a mix of stuff in it, an ending
that's not only one thing.
What is your ultimate
goal with your writing(s)?
Possibly a run for
senate. But if not, then maybe to write some things that are
enjoyable for people and meaningful.
Thank you for answering this long list of interview questions, Jason. It has been my pleasure to get to know you and share you with my readers!
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Disclaimer: I read for my pleasure.
I may receive ARC copies for review purposes, but I am not
compensated for my reviews . I like to read and I like to share
my reviews. I post my thoughts without prejudice or
bias. The words are mine and I write reviews based on my humble
opinion. I will admit, I seldom meet a book I don't like. I
received a complimentary copy from the author or the author’s
representatives in exchange for an honest review.