Hamline News

The Annie Year, debut novel by Stephanie Wilbur Ash


The Annie Year by Stephanie Wilbur Ash
Published by Unnamed Press
Release: October 11, 2016
Novel, 256 pages
Order the book: Unnamed Press
Author Site: stephaniewilburash.com


Tall, trusted Tandy Caide, CPA, is a long-time patron of the arts in her town, which is why you will find her sitting in the front row of the high school’s annual musical production.

This year is an Annie year—and it would be no different than other years were it not for the high school’s hiring of a new vocational agriculture (Vo-Ag) teacher. With his beguiling ponytail and decorative beaded belt, Kenny catches Tandy’s eye immediately. Ignoring the fact of her slovenly husband—who takes most of his meals in their hot tub—Tandy decides to entertain Kenny’s advances.

Trusted community pillar that she is, Tandy’s affair has instant repercussions. People are talking and her husband’s subsequent breakdown and check-in to a mental institution doesn’t help. At her regular meeting with the Order of the Pessimists—comprised of her deceased father’s disgruntled and drunken best friends—she is asked to step down as treasurer. Not only that, but her old lover is keeping a secret somehow connected to the Vo-Ag teacher. And meth labs—fueled by the abundance of fertilizer present in the region—keep blowing up. Somehow, it is all connected to Tandy’s ex-bestfriend’s daughter—the star of this year’s Annie. As Tandy pieces together the puzzle that has become her life, it becomes clear she must embark on a journey of self-discovery that might even include leaving town for good.


With staccato phrasing and acerbic observations about the mundane foolishness of everyone’s lives, Ash keenly captures Tandy’s dry wit…. Darkly hilarious and weirdly beguiling.
—Kirkus Review (read full review here)

Funny and full of keen observations, I loved reading The Annie Year much the same way I love reading Judy Blume, James Cain, Tom Drury, and John Irving, other writers with the gift of being able to get us inside a character's motivation. Ash has created a flawed character, not without judgment, yet we stick with her and root for her, as we should for ourselves.
—Steve Salardino, Skylight Books

Stephanie Ash's The Annie Year is an incredible debut—hilarious and insightful and energetic. Ash sassily mines the dark humor of Midwestern life with utter confidence and creates buoyant and indelible characters who will stick in your heart and mind forever and ever.
—John Jodzio, Author of Knockout

Like the mythological Annie—you know, the one who sings “It’s a Hard Knock Life” but also “Tomorrow”—Tandy has spunky charm and believable innocence. I read this mordantly funny book in one sitting, it's a fine novel with a main character you’ll miss once you’ve finished.
—Debra Monroe, author of My Unsentimental Education

Stephanie Ash's completely original comic novel is a caustic, gimlet-eyed, cry from the heart for small town America and a very funny look at big desires in a small place.
—Mark Haskell Smith, author of Raw: A Love Story 


October 15: Twin Cities Book Festival  
On the Rain Stage at the MN State Fair Grounds
11:00 a.m., with Jason Good, John Jodzio, Geoff Herbach, and Mary Mack
"A Conversation on Why Rural Midwestern Life is Ridiculous + A Book Launch for The Annie Year"

October 22: Book Party and Launch
At Subtext Bookstore in St. Paul, MN.
6:30 p.m., with music, food, and guests 
Facebook Event with details here

October 18: Write On!
Radio, KFAI, 7 p.m.

October 20: Literature Night Out (...sold out)
Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, Minnesota
7 p.m., with Sonya Chung, Rae Meadows, Louise Miller, and Ann Nye



Stephanie Ash received her MFA from Hamline University in 2008. She is a former editor at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, and was one of the literary/musical comedians behind the Lit 6 Project, the Electric Arc Radio Show, and Don’t Crush Our Heart!. 

Now editorial director of a small liberal arts college (Gustavus Adolphus College) in a small prairie town in Minnesota similar to the one in which she was raised, she occasionally parents four children, all teenagers. Stephanie is married to novelist/professor Geoff Herbach, and splits her time between Minneapolis and Mankato, Minnesota. 


Details and photo from author's site. Read more here.