Don’t look for any homespun homilies of Appalachian life inSurviving Mae West,the latest novel from the West Virginia University Press.

Author Priscilla A. Rodd presents a decidedly unpretty look at the life and times of her heroine, Tess, a young woman who leaves her West Virginia home for New York Universityonly to end up as a prostitute.

The book will be out in May on the publication house’s Vandalia Press imprint and reserve orders are being taken now, WVU Press marketing director Sherry McGraw said.

Tess’tales are delivered in the form of her diary entries, a unique narrative style that makes the book all the more immediate, McGraw said.

These are Tess’innermost thoughts,she said.It’s fiction, but it’s authentic, and it’s raw, and it’s pretty compelling.

It’s also honest, McGraw said.

All Tess’plans were changed by a traumatic event,McGraw said,but that doesn’t necessarily make hertragic.’And she’s not always likeable, either.

Especially, McGraw says, to a family back home that still has hope for her and simply can’t understand why she would allow herself to be drawn into the seedy, dangerous world of brothels and back alleys of a different lifefar removed from her former one.

Acclaimed writer Denise Giardina, whose novelsStorming HeavenandThe Unquiet Earthchronicle life in West Virginia’s coalfields, was also taken with that tension.

Tess can be exasperating, like watching a friend engage in self-destructive behavior,Giardina said.Yet we still care about her as she navigates between the two worlds of New York prostitution and her West Virginia family.

Surviving Mae Westjoins several other Vandalia Press offerings set in the region:

  • Lost Highwayby Richard Currey is a tale of a gifted musician trying to gain recognition and redemption on the back roads of Appalachia . An audio version read by Ross Ballard II is also out onMountainWhispers.comAudiobooks.
  • Crum,the coming-of-age novel by Lee Maynard set in his real-life Wayne County, W.Va., hometown of the same name, has turned into a WVU Press best seller, as has its sequel,Screaming with the Cannibals.
  • Fidelitiesis an evocative collection of short stories with West Virginia locales by former newspaper reporter Valerie Nieman.

For more information on these and other WVU Press titles, visitwww.wvupress.comor call 1-866-WVU-PRESS.