A hilarious send-up of writing workshops, for-profit education, and the gulf between believers and nonbelievers
Marianne is in a slump: barely able to support herself by teaching, not making progress on her poetry, about to lose her Brooklyn apartment. When her novelist ex-fiancé, Eric, and his venture capitalist brother, Mark, offer her a job directing a low-residency school for Christian writers at a motel they’ve inherited on Florida’s Gulf Coast, she can’t come up with a reason to say no.
The Genesis Inspirational Writing Ranch is born, and liberal, atheist Marianne is soon knee-deep in applications from writers whose political and religious beliefs she has always opposed but whose money she’s glad to take. Janine is a schoolteacher whose heartfelt poems explore the final days of Terri Schiavo’s life. Davonte is a former R&B superstar who hopes to reboot his career with a bestselling tale of excess and redemption. Lorraine and Tom, eccentric writers in need of paying jobs, join the Ranch as instructors.
Mark finds an investor in God’s Word God’s World, a business that develops for-profit schools for the Christian market, but the conditions that come along with their support become increasingly problematic, especially as Marianne grows closer to the students. As unsavory allegations mount, a hurricane bears down on the Ranch, and Marianne is faced with the consequences of her decisions.
With sharp humor and deep empathy, The Gulf is a memorable debut novel in which Belle Boggs plumbs the troubled waters dividing America.
“Belle Boggs is a witty, incisive writer, and The Gulf, her first novel, deftly satirizes everything from for-profit schools to the MFA industrial complex, American liberals and conservatives, and the hypocrisies of both sides.”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
“Boggs nails the launching point for her satire of for-profit education and the unholy links between manipulation, money, and writing. But The Gulf is more than just a witty parody: Boggs uses the Ranch as a lens through which to examine our fractured country, where the inability to allow for ambivalence keeps us separated by a gulf. In Boggs’s ultimately redemptive novel, it is language—poetry—that bridges that gulf.”—BOMB
“Not to be missed. A rare combination of silliness and poignancy, with momentum and compassion. . . . This is a novel of keen comedy, insight and empathy.”—Shelf Awareness
“A smart, slightly kooky exploration of art and money, faith and politics.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“[The Gulf] beautifully balances absurdity and emotional depth, complete with a bombastic state representative, an epiphanic hurricane, and Marianne's journey, if not to faith, then to salvation.”—Booklist, starred review
“Readers will find this witty, nuanced work both satisfying and resonant.”—Publishers Weekly
“[A] wildly engaging exploration of characters finding their way through connection, and through language.”—Aimee Bender
“The Gulf is literally a DIVINE read—it's also smart, profound, very funny, and finally redemptive.”—Lee Smith
“Belle Boggs has established herself as both a stellar writer of fiction and a brilliant voice on important issues within our society; in this fine novel, her many talents come together.”—Jill McCorkle
“It’s an amazing novel. You have to read it.”—Kevin Wilson
“The Gulf is a hilarious and healing novel for these polarized times. Reading it consumed my nights, and gave me hope.”—Tania James
“A smart, funny, and hugely entertaining tale.”—Jonathan Evison