From the cover of “True Love and Other Dreams of Miraculous Escape” by Micah Perks
From the cover of “True Love and Other Dreams of Miraculous Escape” by Micah Perks

Author Micah Perks: from utopian commune to imaginative novelist

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There are people whose lives seem so innately fictional that you wonder if they had any other choice but to become a writer. Micah Perks, who grew up on a utopian commune in the wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains and now co-directs the creative writing program at UC Santa Cruz, is such a person.

While her previous works — a childhood memoir called “Pagan Time” (2009) and the imaginative novels “We Are Gathered Here,” (1997) and “What Becomes Us” (2016) —  were mostly set on the East Coast, her new novel,“True Love and Other Dreams of Miraculous Escape,” definitively occupies the California literary landscape.

In a series of interconnected stories, “True Love” recounts the lives and loves of one heroine, Sadie, who runs a funky bookstore in Santa Cruz; loves and loses a romantic Chilean student; marries; mothers; travels to Paris; and comes home to California. Through all of Sadie’s escapades, and those of her brother, Isaac, and tangential characters, Perks explores the human yearning for love that is often contradicted by a simultaneous desire to escape.

As in her previous works, Perks’ imagination is not constrained by a contemporary timeframe. While mostly set in the present, “True Love” includes one story, “King of Chains,” in which a reporter, the grandfather of Sadie and Isaac, interacts with Harry Houdini, in 1915, about the famous escape artist’s visit to the Winchester Mystery House.

The influence of Perks’ Jewish background is subtle — yet present. As author and professor David Vann noted in a book-jacket blurb, the Houdini story “gains weight from the six million Jews who did not escape.”

The book is scheduled to be released Oct. 8 in paperback and e-book.

Perks will read from and discuss the book with contemporaries Molly Antopol and Tobias Wolff on Oct. 9 at Kepler’s Books in Palo Alto; at Bookshop Santa Cruz on Oct. 23; and with Kate Schatz and Lucy Bledsoe at The Bindery, San Francisco, on Nov. 7.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull was J.'s culture editor from 2018 to 2021.