Melissa Scholes Young’s debut novel, “Flood,” is a contemporary story set in Hannibal.
Young, a native of Hannibal, taps into many of the themes of Mark Twain’s work — the need for adventure, complicated ties to home, staking one’s identity and emotional yearning — in a story about a young woman’s return to Hannibal, the town that both haunts her and draws her back.
In the story, Laura Brooks, 28, never intended to return to Hannibal for more than a fly-by visit. She left the town after high school, studying nursing in St. Louis before landing in Florida. But her life has not worked out as she dreamed, and she makes her way back to Hannibal as a temporary fix. Little has changed. Her resentful mother still lives in the same trailer near the river where Laura and her brother, Trey, grew up without a father. And Laura’s best friend, Rose, is living through an ugly divorce.
There are still things that Laura loves about the town. With the Fourth of July approaching, the community is enmeshed in its annual contest to choose a Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher from among the local children, and Rose’s son, Bobby — whom Laura loves as if he were her own — is a contender. Laura tries to help Bobby snag the role. At the same time, flood warnings are in effect, just as they were 10 years before when Laura left town, after the levees broke and her heart was broken, too, by a boy named Sammy.
Her high school reunion, and all that implies, fast approaches. But it is when Sammy resurfaces the emotional turbulence of the past returns. Like Huck Finn before her, Laura’s impulse is to flee. If she makes the choice to stay, though, there is always a chance at love — and at a rebuilt life in the place that, try as she might, she can never stop calling home.
About the Author
Melissa Scholes Young was born and raised in Hannibal, and still proudly claims it as her hometown. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Washington Post, Narrative, Ploughshares, Poets & Writers and other literary journals. She teaches at American University in Washington, D.C. melissascholesyoung.com.
Author to visit Hannibal
Friday, June 30
Hannibal Arts Council, 105 S. Main St.
4 p.m. Navigating the Writing and Publishing Path
Melissa Scholes Young will share her experiences writing, selling and publishing her first novel. She’ll discuss her work for national magazines, newspapers and literary journals.
5 p.m. Author reading and signing; books will be for sale.
Saturday, July 1
Mark Twain Museum
5 p.m. Writing from Roots
Melissa Scholes Young will discuss how Mark Twain’s work influenced in her own with author reading and signing. Books will be for sale.