Critical Era’s January 2013 Selection: Hell or High Water by Joy Castro


Critical Era is a free online contemporary fiction book club that meets with up and coming authors on a monthly basis to discuss their work.

Happy New Year!

We’re pleased to announce that our first official read of 2013 will be author Joy Castro’s third book Hell or High Water:

A psychological thriller in the vein of Kate Atkinson and Tana French that introduces Nola Céspedes, an intense and spellbinding protagonist

Nola Céspedes, an ambitious young reporter at the Times-Picayune, catches a break: An assignment to write her first full-length feature. While researching her story, she also becomes fixated on the search for a missing tourist in New Orleans. As Nola’s work leads her into darker corners of the city, a singular narrative voice emerges, and an even more compelling question surfaces: Who is Nola Céspedes? Vividly rendered in razor sharp prose, this novel is a riveting journey of trust betrayed–and the courageous struggle toward recovery. (From the publisher)

More about Joy Castro:

Castro was born in Miami in 1967 and adopted four days later by a Cuban-American family of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  She grew up believing in what Witnesses call “the Truth” and going door to door, but she ran away at fourteen when the home became abusive, finally leaving the religion at fifteen.  On her own from the age of sixteen, she raised her son, born when she was a college junior, while finishing school and earning her graduate degrees.  Raised to believe herself Latina, she found her birthmother at twenty-six and discovered that her actual ethnic background was quite different.  In The Truth Book Castro writes about religion, violence, adoption, ethnic identity, and her father’s suicide, as well as the warmth, beauty, humor, and passion for reading that sustained her.

She earned her B.A. at Trinity University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in literature at Texas A&M University.  After graduate school, she worked for ten years at Wabash College, one of three remaining all-male private liberal arts colleges. In 2007, she joined the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she is currently an associate professor with a joint appointment in English and Ethnic Studies and serves as the associate director of the Institute of Ethnic Studies.  She also taught for three years in the Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College in Boston. She has led classes and workshops in the Macondo Writers’ Workshop, the Nebraska Summer Writers Conference, and the University of Iowa MFA in Nonfiction Program.

An award-winning teacher, she has published articles on innovative strategies for the college classroom. Her published literary scholarship focuses on issues of class, gender and race in the work of experimental women writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries such as Jean Rhys, Meridel Le Sueur, Sandra Cisneros, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Margery Latimer.  (from

Best of all Ms. Castro will be joining Critical Era online via Skype on the evening of Tuesday, January 22th at 9PM Eastern to discuss her novel with the group! Not a member? Sign up is a quick, easy, and free via the Goodreads website. All you need in order to participate is a computer and a microphone. Come join us!

What is Critical Era?

Critical Era is a free to join, online, contemporary fiction book club maintained and operated by Typographical Era through Goodreads.  Official selections are announced on a monthly basis.  All you need to do is grab yourself a copy of the book, read it, and then join us online for a healthy discussion about its contents.  From time to time, and whenever possible, the author of the novel will make his or herself available to the group during our live discussion to answer questions as well.

We only have one rule: Be nice to one another.  It is okay to not like a book.  It is NOT okay not to like a person because they did not like a book.

As a member of the club you’re not required to attend every meeting.  You’re free to read whatever titles that interest you and participate in whichever conversations that you’d like to be a part of.

Live discussions are facilitated by Typographical Era via Skype audio chat and are generally scheduled on the last Tuesday of each month at 9PM Eastern time.  You can download and install Skype here.  The basic application is free of charge and the paid premium services they provide are not required to take part in the monthly discussions.  In addition, communication throughout the month is encouraged through the club’s Goodreads forum.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you’re in England, Finland, or the United States, as long as you speak English (sorry, it’s the only language we’re fluent in!) and enjoying reading contemporary fiction, there’s a place for you here.

If you’ve got additional questions about Critical Era or you need assistance with using our Goodreads forums or with setting up Skype, please use the comment form below to contact us.

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.