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Keeping Faith, by Fenton JohnsonKeeping Faith:  A Skeptic’s Journey among Christian and Buddhist Monks
Houghton Mifflin / Mariner

In a resonant account of his spiritual quest, Fenton Johnson examines what it means for a skeptic to have and to keep faith.  Exploring Western and Eastern contemplative traditions, Johnson lives as a member of the community at the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky and at the branches of the San Francisco Zen Center.  Ultimately his encounter with Buddhism brings him to a new understanding and embrace of Christianity.   Weaving together meditations on Johnson’s spiritual journey with history and insights from contemporary monks, Keeping Faith offers a blueprint for a new way of practicing faith. [Order Now]

Geography of the Heart, by Fenton JohnsonGeography of the Heart:  A Memoir
Scribner / Washington Square

An unforgettable book about the transformative power of love — how it makes us into the bravest and best persons we are capable of being.  With grace and affection, Johnson recounts the history of “how I fell in love, how I came to be with someone else, how he came to death and how I helped, how in the end love enables us to continue beyond death.”  At the same time, Johnson interweaves two stories:  his own upbringing as the youngest of a Kentucky whiskey maker’s nine children, and that of his lover Larry Rose, the only child of German Jews, survivors of the Holocaust.  This memoir affirms and embraces the mysterious workings of joy and grief, love and loss in our lives. [Order Now]


Scissors, Paper, Rock, by Fenton JohnsonScissors, Paper, Rock:  A Novel in Stories
Pocket / Washington Square

For the first time since he left his birthplace in Kentucky for San Francisco, Raphael Hardin has returned home alone.  Before, he had always brought men with him on his visits, lovers with whom his mother had been “civil, even flirtatious,” while his father retreated into his sacred woodshop.

Now his mother has died and, at age thirty-six, Raphael has come back to see his dying father, who knows and disapproves of Raphael’s boyfriends but who is unaware that this, his youngest child, may be ill as well.

Raphael’s halting, often painful attempt to reconcile with his father forms the centerpiece of Fenton Johnson’s astonishing novel.  At times funny, at times heartbreakingly poignant, Scissors, Paper, Rock explores with wisdom and humor the many kinds of family, the infinite varieties of love.

Through the intricately interwoven stories of the Hardin parents and children, Scissors, Paper, Rock contrasts the families we inherit — our blood ties — with the families we choose, our partners in love and our friends. [Order Now]

Crossing the River, by Fenton JohnsonCrossing the River:  A Novel
Birch Lane / Dell


Carrying her Confederate heritage like a flag, Martha Bragg Pickett was as stubborn as her red hair.  And hungry for life.  On a date she crossed the river, leaving the safe, abstaining, Baptist, Southern side and venturing over to the dangerous, rowdy, Catholic Northern side.  And when that proved less than thrilling, she marched her young self right into the (men only) Miracle Inn, which got a rise out of the owner Bernie Miracle, who thought he’d seen everything.  But even Martha was shocked to find herself living on the wrong side of the river twenty years later, with a grown son, a tired marriage to Bernie, a handsome Yankee contractor newly arrived in town — and a well-remembered itch for a life that hadn’t been scratched since she made her first big, brave mistake. [Order Now]