When sixteen-year-old Sophie Granger suspects she is pregnant, she digs out her mother Peggy’s tarot cards. Peggy hasn’t read fortunes since her hippie days in Taos, but she hasn’t forgotten much. As soon as she flips the cards, Peggy sees both her daughter’s predicament and the family crisis that will ensue. A panicked Peggy scatters the layout and rushes from the room, leaving Sophie to construct a literal house of tarot cards. Set in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, this engrossing family novel invites readers to speculate on the role fortune plays in our lives.
Sharon Oard Warner’s Sophie’s House of Cards is infused with everything I look for in fiction: sympathetic characters whose imperfections are recognizably human, a strong sense of place, and a story that lingers long after you’ve closed the book and moved on to others, wishing they were as captivating and masterfully told as Warner’s novel. ~Wally Lamb, author of We Are Water
A family at a crossroads reconfigures itself in Warner’s (English/University of New Mexico) second novel (Deep in the Heart, 2001, etc.).
51-year-old Peggy Granger is an ex-hippie who used to read tarot cards in exchange for food, shelter and pocket money. Her cards have been stored away, untouched for years, until her 16-year-old daughter, Sophie, finds them and asks her to do a reading. Ten cards, laid out in the form of a Celtic cross, provide the titles and openings of each chapter, a clever narrative structure that links the past, present and future of this family whose stability is as fragile as a house of cards. —Kirkus Reviews
Warner has structured this complicated story not just as a busy hive full of characters who fly into and away from each other, nor as a flimsy house of cards. As others move around her and walls fall down Sophie reveals her fortitude. Her endearing story of teen pregnancy, growth, and resilience stands as the central support of Sophie’s House of Cards. —Western American Literature, Winter 2016
“A deftly woven story textured with beautifully flawed characters who redefine what it means to be a family in an age where love, not blood, connects all creatures—from humans to honey bees. What a charming and deeply compassionate novel.”—B. K. Loren, author of Theft
“My heart goes out to the family in Sophie’s House of Cards as they deal with reconciling past and present, addressing mistakes new and old.”—Timothy Schaffert, author of The Swan Gondola
In the tradition of John Irving’s The Cider House Rules and Sue Miller’s The Good Mother, this emotionally charged debut novel explores the moral complexities surrounding one of the most controversial issues in American culture. In her own sheltered corner of Austin, Texas, twenty-three-year-old Penny Reed is taking her first tentative steps toward independence. Until now, her world has been narrowly defined—by her devout grandmother, Mattie, and the rigid doctrine of their church, led by a charismatic young minister on a personal crusade. On the other side of the city, Hannah Solace, an assistant principal of a local high school is pregnant for the first time at the age of forty. Her husband, Carl, an artist who runs a bookstore at the mall, is ecstatic and sees the pregnancy as a chance to rekindle their faltering marriage. But Hannah’s fears about motherhood and the memories of her own painful childhood run deep, and without telling Carl, she decides to terminate the pregnancy. At the local clinic, Hannah, Carl, and Penny come face to face. This single stroke of fate will have profound reverberations, forcing each of them to reevaluate everything they have come to believe about love, motherhood, and family.
In her first novel, Deep in the Heart, Sharon Oard Warner takes on a big subject—and there’s nothing short or small about her approach. No matter where you stand on the issue of abortion, this book succeeds in making you understand and even like, if not identify with, all the dancers around this particular cultural bonfire, which is no small feat.
–Beth Gutcheon for Newsday
Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid “Deep in the Heart” is to acknowledge how little comfort will be found by readers who expect the novel to choose sides, to declare a moral “victor” by the final page. Instead, the novel honors complexity and humanity.
–Lynna Williams for the Chicago Tribune
In her perfectly pitched debut novel, Warner warms the heart and provokes the mind as she examines the lives of two women whose paths intersect when one seeks an abortion at a clinic picketed by pro-lifers.
–starred review Kirkus
The author depicts the controversial subject of choice in a manner that is highly effective, exploring the perspectives of both the individual and the religious right. Recommended for all public libraries.
–Kimberly G. Allen for Library Journal
If you liked Middlemarch, you’re going to adore Deep in the Heart, the first novel by short story writer Sharon Oard Warner. . . . Deep in the Heart is a long juicy read about real people struggling with big ideological problems as well as those of a more romantic nature. Like Eliot, Warner has a fiction writer’s heart and a social scientist’s brain.
–Annie Dawid for the Women’s Review of Books
AIDS has changed all of us—perhaps intimately, perhaps indirectly—and the sixteen stories in The Way We Write Now are about all of our lives. As affecting as they are varied—here are brothers and sisters, parents and babies, doctors and patients—these short stories reveal what is of value in the brief time we have in this world. The diverse ways AIDS has infused new experiences of love, loss, eroticism, illness, tragedy, and courage into the province of contemporary fiction is powerfully displayed in this collection by a wide range of celebrated and gifted writers.
Warner has collected a group of strong stories—each excellent in its own right. . . .
Like my rabbi, Warner has undertaken the immense and admirable task of creating a community of mourners, stories of grief passed around like a handkerchief at the first funeral. The most notable thing about the task is the “we” of the title. This time, “we” doesn’t refer only to the gay community, or the straight community, but speaks across those artificial boundaries. The consequences of this are, perhaps, not unexpected: a sense of inclusion, a real sense that AIDS has and continues to affect all of us—parents as well as children, gays as well as their friends and family, minorities and women who have even less of a support community than gay men.
–Martin Schecter for the American Book Review
Learning to Dance and Other Stories
Winner of the Minnesota Voices Project
These stories have a haunting quality, peopled as they are with characters who inadvertently learn from strangers the life lessons they are prevented from learning in their own splintered, incomplete families. Sharon Oard Warner creates a narrative surface which is deceptively clean, perhaps because the ideals her characters patiently pursue are deceptively simple — happy marriages, a loving family or at least a complete one. Through the gentle accretion of sad facts and simple truths, these stories gather a radiant and emotional power that is deeply satisfying. –Lucia Nevai
Her moving fiction forces us to inhabit realms that are familiar from news reports and contemporary culture—one, “Christina’s World,” is written from the viewpoint of the woman in Andrew Wyeth’s painting—but which we prefer to acknowledge from a distance. Although her precise images bring us uncomfortably close, these stories are seldom despairing. Instead, they inspire applause for Ms. Warner’s talent and for her characters’ struggles to live, to love, and even to dance.
–Laurel Graeber for the New York Times Book Review
These stories do not say: I am now going to write about disabled people. They do something stories do naturally to be deeply interesting, even important, I guess. They say: Some lives are hidden. But they are lived right in our midst. How come we don’t see them? Here comes the story, the poem . . . better than electricity. Now you can see the person who’s been standing right next to you.
–Grace Paley for Ms. Magazine
The collection is capable of making the careful reader a different person—or at least a more contemplative one.
–Martha Sheridan for the Dallas Morning News
Warner is neither maudlin nor patronizing when writing about disability, and she peoples various stories with complex individuals living with deafness, AIDS, and paralysis as well as mental retardation. Never overdrawn, the experience of physical disability is just another realistic dimension in Warner’s deeply textured world and often a provocative metaphor for otherness.
–Valerie Miner for the Women’s Review of Books