THE ASSIGNED VISIT

Shelley Fraser Mickle

Twenty years later, a woman writes of the man she loves and the defining moment he experiences in Mississippi in the late l960s, leading to a possible reunion of the long-separated pair.

When Caleb Montiel and Susan Masters meet in a Harvard writing class in l969, they make a pact: if either lives a story they know they emotionally cannot handle, they will gift it to the other to write.  Twenty years later, Susan, now a successful novelist, receives a box of journals from Caleb, whom she has not seen since l970. Susan will finally be allowed to love Caleb as she has always wished through the story she writes.

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Twenty years later, a woman writes of the man she loves and the defining moment he experiences in Mississippi in the late l960s, leading to a possible reunion of the long-separated pair.

When Caleb Montiel and Susan Masters meet in a Harvard writing class in l969, they make a pact: if either lives a story they know they emotionally cannot handle, they will gift it to the other to write.  Twenty years later, Susan, now a successful novelist, receives a box of journals from Caleb, whom she has not seen since l970. Susan will finally be allowed to love Caleb as she has always wished through the story she writes. But will doing so unsettle her life?

In the spirit of Tolstoy’s novella, The Cossacks, The Assigned Visit explores the complications of culture and love, youth and duty, and above all, the mysterious force that can move two separate lives together into a timeless bond.

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  • River City Publishing
  • Paperback
  • March 2007
  • 350 Pages
  • 9781579660727

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$16.95

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About Shelley Fraser Mickle

Shelley Fraser Mickle is a novelist and National Pubic Radio Commentator.  Her novel The Queen of October was a l989 New York Times Notable Book, her second novel Replacing Dad became a CBS movie in l999, and her most recent novel, The Turning Hour, based on a true story of a high school senior recovering from a suicide attempt, is being taught in high schools.  Her radio essays have been collected under the title, The Kids Are Gone; The Dog Is Depressed & Mom’s on the Loose.

Praise

“Beginning in Boston in the disruptive early l960s, this vividly-told love story moves south to the Gulf Coast, encompasses attraction, lust, torment and seeming exhaustion, only to flame up again over the years in an impassioned renewal. Shelley Mickle UNDERSTANDS these fascinating complicated people of hers, and their discoveries and dilemmas become ours.”
–Louis Rubin, author or editor of more than fifty books, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Book Critics Circle

“Shelley Fraser Mickle’s skillful juxtaposition of time, place, and voice pulled me immediately into the lives of an ambitious Mississippi belle, a handsome young idealist, a famous antiwar protestor, a smoldering beauty, and a community determined to protect its own. This believable and complex story has stayed with me, long after the surprising and gratifying ending.”
–Cassandra King, author of Making Waves, The Sunday Wife, and The Same Sweet Girls

“In luminous language and transcendent imagery, The Assigned Visit evokes the raw innocence and passion of our collective youth.  More important, it summons a message of hope for our ravaged times.”  –Laurie Rigler, coauthor of He Rents, She Rents and Popping the Question

Discussion Questions

Compare the relationship of Caleb and Susan with that of Caleb and Grayciana Chadwick.  How is love transformative? Is it true that perhaps we learn to love long by once loving deeply?

What parts of Caleb and his father’s relationship are typical of that between other fathers and sons?

What part does culture play in who we are and how we love?

Food differentiates cultures. What other signposts do cultures place in peoples’ lives? What facts of the Vietnam War were you aware of as you read The Assigned Visit?

Did you know anyone who fled to Canada or went to prison? Whom did you know who received a draft notice, and how did he respond? How did the experience change him?

Are there similarities to the events of l969 and ’70 to today? How are we the same? How is America different?

Caleb suffers a devastating accusation, against which he cannot defend himself. Is his dilemma more prevalent today?

Barnes is a tormented character and finds himself at a moral crossroads. He has to “frame” his friend or face losing his wife. If he were a real character, how do you think he would be dealing with his memories today?

It is chilling to think that this story, set in the months after Hurricane Camille, is being relived, on even harder terms, after Katrina. Does reading this story, in which Pass Christian and the Coast appear as they once were, bring greater comfort or renewed grief?

Is Susan noble in her love for Caleb, or should she have voiced her feelings to him when she was a young girl in Boston?

Have you ever known anyone with Grayce Chadwick’s charisma? Can we even name what goes into her extraordinary appeal?