Cai Emmons is the author of four novels—His Mother’s Son, The Stylist, Weather Woman, Sinking Islands—and a story collection, Vanishing. She holds a BA from Yale University and two MFAs from New York University in film and from the University of Oregon in fiction. Before turning to fiction, Emmons wrote plays and screenplays. Winner of a Student Academy Award, an Oregon Book Award, and the Leapfrog Fiction Prize, and a finalist for the Narrative Magazine and Missouri Review fiction prizes, she has taught at a variety of institutions, most recently in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Oregon. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.
Publication Date: September 27, 2022
Sybil White Brown returns from Boston to the small West Coast city where she once lived, hoping to heal after a terrible loss. Summoned to jury duty, she is dismayed to be assigned to the jury of a murder trial alongside her ex-husband with whom she had a rancorous divorce. As the trial progresses, she and her ex tiptoe around each other but eventually become disastrously entangled. Meanwhile, Sybil obsesses about the female defendant, whom she believes is innocent. The situation explodes during jury deliberations when Sybil comes face-to-face with her own unexpressed rage.
“Emmons’ story pulls in the reader from the very first chapter: a woman, a lawyer, is accused of murdering and mutilating her husband. A second woman sits on her jury, alongside her ex-husband, a man she hasn’t had contact with for several years. What follows is a riveting, provocative tale about women, and anger, and how nothing is ever what it truly seems to be. Mostly though, the novel is a classic page-turner that riffs on the nature of guilt and love and trust and truth. It’s a book you find yourself thinking about long after reading the final page.”
— Whitney Otto, best-selling author of How to Make an American Quilt
“Cai Emmons has an exquisite ability to delve into the inner life of her characters. Sybil the narrator has a confiding voice that we trust, even as we recognize that she is both perceptive and blinkered. The murder trial for which she is a juror has stirred an obsessive fascination with the defendant, and the stakes are further raised when Sybil’s former husband is also seated on the jury, hurtling her into a vortex of memories and feelings. The vivid and precise writing from one surprising page to the next is a rare treat. Hair on Fire is as nuanced and graceful a novel as I have read in a long while.”
—Katharine Weber, author of Jane of Hearts and Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear
Publication Date: September 14, 2021
Sinking Islands continues the story of Bronwyn Artair, a scientist who possesses the power to influence the natural forces of the Earth. After several successful interventions, including one in Siberia, she has gone into hiding, worried about unintended consequences of her actions, as well as about the ethics of operating solo. But circumstances call her to action again, and an idea takes shape: What if she could impart her skill to other people? Gathering a few kindred souls from climate-troubled places around the world—Felipe from São Paulo, where drought conditions are creating strains on day-to-day life; Analu and his daughter Penina from a sinking island in the South Pacific; and Patty from the tornado-ridden plains of Kansas—she takes them to the wilds of Northern New Hampshire where she tries to teach them her skill. The novel, realistic but for the single fantastical element, explores how we might become more attuned to the Earth and act more collaboratively to solve the enormity of our climate problem.
“This prescient tale of a not-too-distant eco-dystopia will have readers on the edge of their seats. Shifting between vivid characters and far-flung settings, Sinking Islands spins a potent story about what happens when the unbelievable becomes reality, when the earth goes mad and takes all of us along for the ride. A captivating read.”—Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Birds of Paradise
“With a dazzling array of characters and locations and just enough magic to surprise and enchant us, Sinking Islands explores how connection, mentorship, and dedication might alter the course of lives and planet. This novel is an ecofeminist gem.”—Sharma Shields, author of The Cassandra
Publication Date: October 9, 2018
30-year-old Bronwyn Artair, feeling out of place in her doctoral program in Atmospheric Sciences at MIT, drops out and takes a job as a TV meteorologist, much to the dismay of her mentor, Diane Fenwick. After a year of living alone in Southern New Hampshire, enduring the indignities of her job, dumped by her boyfriend, she discovers her deep connection to the natural world has given her an ability to affect natural forces. When she finally accepts she really possesses this startling capability, she must then negotiate a new relationship to the world. Who will she tell? Who will believe her? Most importantly, how will she put this new skill of hers to use? As she seeks answers to these questions, she travels to Kansas to see the tornado maverick she worships; falls in love with Matt, the tabloid journalist who has come to investigate her; visits fires raging out of control in Los Angeles; and eventually voyages with Matt and Diane to the methane fields of Siberia. A woman experiencing power for the first time in her life, she must figure out what she can do for the world without hurting it further. The story poses questions about science and intuition, women and power, and what the earth needs from humans.
HONORABLE MENTION – 2019 Eric Hoffer Award, General Fiction
SILVER – 2018 Nautilus Book Awards, Fiction (Large Publisher)
“A riveting tug-of-war between science and intuition, doubt and belief, impending devastation and the hope of survival. Even the most rational among us will find wisdom here, wonder, and truth.”—Eileen Pollack, author of A Perfect Life
“How can you not love this beautifully brainy, indelibly moving, knock-your- socks-off novel about a female meteorologist who can control the weather? Grounded in both awe and science, aching with wonder, and written with the dazzling surprise of a double rainbow, Emmons is a brilliant alchemist, making you truly believe that the inexplicable is sometimes the most gloriously possible thing of all. None of us are alone. None of us are alone, none of us should be alone, and we should all realize our connection to the Earth. Like the tsunamis, tornadoes, earthquakes and perfect blue skies, she’s a natural literary force to be reckoned with.”—Caroline Leavitt, author of Cruel Beautiful World and the New York Times bestsellers Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow?