Joanna Pearson Bright and Tender Dark

Friday, June 14 from 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Join us for an evening with Joanna Pearson, in conversation with Polly Stewart.

Join us for a reading with author Joanna Pearson, who will read from her debut novel, Bright and Tender Dark. A conversation with author Polly Stewart will follow. This in-person event will be free and open to the public. We recommend arriving early for the best seating.

About the Book: In the tradition of Notes on an Execution and I Have Some Questions for You, a thrilling, wire-taut debut novel about a murder on a college campus and its aftermath twenty years later.

Days after the dawn of Y2K, beautiful, charismatic nineteen-year-old Karlie Richards is found brutally murdered in her campus apartment. Two decades later, those who knew Karlie—and those who just knew of her—remain consumed by her death. Among them is her freshman year roommate, Joy, now middle-aged and mid-divorce, living in the same college town and desperate for a new beginning. When she stumbles upon a twenty-year-old letter from Karlie, Joy becomes convinced the man in prison for her murder was wrongfully convicted. Soon she is diving deep into the dark world of internet conspiracy theorists and amateur sleuth blogs and bouncing off others touched by the long, sensational aftermath of this crime. They include KC, the trans night manager at the building where Karlie was killed; Sheri, the mother of the intellectually disabled man serving time; and Jacob Hendrix, the charming professor with whom, Joy knows all too well, Karlie was romantically entangled before her death.

Jumping between 2019 and 1999, Bright and Tender Dark takes us from the era of Reddit threads and online obsession to the evangelism-infused culture of the late ’90s to reveal what really happened to Karlie. It is a compulsively readable, prismatic literary mystery that brilliantly mines the mythology of murder, the power of urban legend, and the psychological urge to both protect and exploit what you love but cannot have.

About the Author: Joanna Pearson is the author of two short story collections and a book of poetry. She has won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize and been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Awards, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and the Virginia Literary Awards. Her stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery and Suspense, and many other publications. She lives in North Carolina, where she works as a psychiatrist. Bright and Tender Dark is her debut novel.

About the Moderator: Polly Stewart is the author of the novels The Good Ones and The Felons’ Ball (forthcoming 2025). She lives in Lexington, Virginia.

Bright and Tender Dark will be released on June 4. To order the book, please see below for the New Dominion Bookshop book order form or call the shop at 434-295-2552.

"Bright and Tender Dark is a haunting and lyrical read with the pace of a whodunnit that examines true crime fandom without succumbing to the genre’s temptations. Joanna Pearson masterfully intercuts between 1999 and 2019, taking us through the egos of academia, the pull of organized religion, and the possibility of miscarried justice to ask: how and when does a woman’s life become a ghost story?"

—Becky Cooper

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