Press "Enter" to skip to content

Novelist Laura Sims Reads at Bennington Literature Evening

Photo by Jen Lee / Vogue

On Wednesday March 6th Laura Sims came to Bennington to read from her latest book How Can I Help You and answer some questions from students. The reading and Q & A took place in Tishman. The event was organized by Franny Choi and Camille Guthrie, a close friend of Sims’.

The event started off with an introduction by Choi. Guthrie then took the stage to speak about her friendship with Laura and talk a little about the novel. Guthrie and Sims met through a network of poets who were also mothers and shared their successes throughout the years. When Sims’ came up to the podium to introduce her book, she expressed how much Guthrie’s support encouraged her.

How Can I Help You is the story of two reference librarians, Patricia and Margo who become close friends. Patricia is a writer and Margo is hiding a dark past as a nurse who murdered her patients. The book uses a split perspective to tell their story. Laura read a passage from the novel in Margo’s Perspective. The writing was compelling and every bit made me feel immersed in Margo as a character. One of my favorite lines from this passage was “I always thought if it were me in the bed I’d be naked and scentless. It would feel so good to put my life in someone’s hands, to be handled and bathed, to be healed, one way or another”

After Sims read, she took questions from students. Many of these questions were from students who had read the book for Guthrie’s Literature class: The Female Grotesque. Others were from those who had not read the book yet but were engrossed by Sims’ reading.

When asked whether it was challenging to write from the perspective of a serial killer, Sims remarked that “It should have been” but she found it freeing. She spoke of the liberating feeling of writing from Margo’s perspective, which was based on the real story of a nurse who killed her patients. “I’m always fascinated by characters who cross societal lines of what is good and decent behavior.”

Sims also spoke about how her experience as a reference librarian informed her choice to set the novel in a library with library workers as main characters “You can see the whole spectrum of human behavior at a library” As opposed to one of the main characters in the novel, Sims enjoyed the reality of the contemporary library and how different it is from what one might expect.

After the reading and Q&A, Sims signed books and copies were sold in Tishman. She also brought a gift for everyone who came to the reading, which turned out to be a mini matchbook themed for the novel. How Can I Help You is currently available in the Bennington bookstore. 

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *