by Len Lear
Chestnut Hill novelist Justin Kramon will visit the Chestnut Hill Library, 8711 Germantown Ave., on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 7:30 to 9 p.m., to discuss his critically-acclaimed debut novel, “Finny,” which was published by Random House in July. Kramon, 30, will also offer tips and experiences for writers trying to publish their first novels or stories, and answer questions from the audience.
The event is free and open to the public. Discounted copies of “Finny” will be available for purchase at the event. Kramon will sign and personalize all copies.
Kramon’s novel has received rave reviews in many papers across the U.S. and internationally. The New York Times featured his book in their July fiction round-up, and “Finny” made summer reading lists across the country. Reviewer Louise Leetch summed up her feeling about the book by saying, “It is a super summer book; buy it as a beach book or a rainy day book, but buy it.”
A review in the Baltimore Sun declared: “Combining the human panoply of ‘David Copperfield’ with the cutting colloquial wisdom of ‘Catcher in the Rye,’ ‘Finny’ is the rare authentic coming-of-age novel.” The Boston Globe insisted that “Kramon is a talented young author, and ‘Finny’ a worthy read, and a dickens of a first novel.” Philadelphia’s own City Paper ran a review stating that “Finny” is “the most refreshing summer novel I’ve read in a long time.”
An internet review by a Stephanie Harrison that is entitled “Memorable heroine marks young author’s debut” states in part: “Through it all, readers will be captivated by Finny (who is 14) as she grapples with finding her place in the world and learning to accept herself, flaws and all … In the pages of ‘Finny,’ Kramon captures the difficult transition from girlhood to womanhood with remarkable tenderness and insight. The warmth with which he infuses the narrative is one of the novel’s strongest elements, and there is a real vitality that hums through its pages. Without a doubt, Finny is the perfect coming-of-age read for those who are eternally young at heart.”
Kramon, a graduate of Swarthmore College with an M.A. in Fiction from the University of Iowa, has given seminars for aspiring writers across the country, and he has taught at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York, the largest writing program in the country. He has also won six prestigious awards and fellowships, including one in Scotland and one in Italy.
After an exhausting 20-city book tour, Kramon is delighted to be talking to an audience in his new home of Chestnut Hill. Kramon has lived in Chestnut Hill with his fiancee, Lynn Trieu, also 30, since the summer of 2009. (Lynn was born in Vietnam but grew up in San Diego.) “We moved to Philadelphia because Lynn was doing a residency at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry while I was editing my book,” he told us last week. Lynn is now teaching half-time at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, and she’s also working in a private optometry practice in Plymouth Meeting.
“We moved to Chestnut Hill because, of all the areas that were convenient to Lynn’s work, Chestnut Hill offered the most for us. I have a great quiet space for writing, I can walk up the street and get fresh fish and vegetables at the Top of the Hill Market, and since I travel a lot for book events, it’s great for me to have the SEPTA train so close by and such convenient access to Center City. I also love walking, and there are so many nice places to walk with the Wissahickon so close by.”
Kramon, who was born and raised in Baltimore, was asked about the extraordinarily flattering comparison by one reviewer between “Finny” and “Catcher in the Rye.” He told us, “I agree that ‘Catcher in the Rye’ is a special book. I love it, too. People are a little harder on that book now, I think, but I re-read it a couple years ago and still found it very funny and moving. I think my book is actually more similar to older-fashioned coming-of-age stories — Dickens or Hardy — but of course I’m happy with a ‘Catcher’ comparison, if that’s what the reviewer felt.
“I’ve been very gratified by the reviews of Finny. I’m a person who generally expects the worst, so it’s been a pleasant surprise to have the book so well-received. The best thing for me is that people are enjoying reading it. I wanted the book to be engaging and funny and moving, and it’s nice to know I wasn’t too off-base.”
To learn more about Justin Kramon or “Finny” (Random House 2010), visit www.justinkramon.com