By the tender age of sixteen, Mary Catherine Henry has lived through enough horror to last a lifetime. Sexual abuse at the hands of her cult-leading father, abandonment by her drug-addicted mother (who nicknamed her Mare), and several spirit-crushing years with a dysfunctional foster family convince her that life on the streets will be easier, somehow, than what she has always known. What keeps Mare going is the budding artist inside her, and the sleepy Southern town of Macon, Georgia, does not know what hit them when colorful graffiti bombs begin appearing on abandoned buildings Mare even dares to decorate a Catholic church with a highly provocative message. The young runaway signs her work CHERRY BOMB, attracts the attention of the local media, and is soon caught but not by police. A photographer for Rolling Stone learns of Mare while on assignment, finds her, and befriends her. So does a reporter for The Macon News and, eventually, the priest of the parish whose walls Mare defaced so angrily. Their efforts help earn her a scholarship at prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design, where she studies under legendary Abstract Expressionist painter Elaine de Kooning. It is a wonderful mentoring relationship ... until Mare and Elaine discover they have much more in common than a love of art. And that bond, which forces both women to deal with pain and anger from their repressed pasts, threatens to tear them apart. With a mix of remarkably visual characters and an intricate, compelling plot rich with intriguing religious imagery, Mississippi author Susan Cushman has penned a powerful debut novel that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page. You will never forget Mare and Elaine ... and you will never look at religious icons and street graffiti the same way.
Susan Cushman grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and studied English at the University of Mississippi. Her first book, Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimers, was published in early 2017. She was editor of A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be, also published in 2017. She lives in Memphis with her husband Bill. Cherry Bomb is her first novel.